It used to be illegal drugs that felled great artists – Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison.
Now it's more likely to be pharmaceuticals –Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, and now Prince.
I must admit, I didn't realize how hard I would take Prince's untimely death.
Last week I watched loads of his videos, appreciating the depth and breadth of Prince's artistic genius. His music transports me back to New York City in the 80's. It was an exciting and adventurous time to live in the Big Apple, and his music fed my soul as part of my personal soundtrack.
In one of the earliest breaking stories, his dear friend and artistic collaborator Sheila E. said he suffered excruciating pain in his hips and ankles from years of high-energy performances in high heels, and became addicted to the narcotic painkiller Percocet.
Today, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Percocet was found in his home and lifeless body.
A powerful opioid painkiller, Percocet has been relentlessly pushed by Big Pharma as the first choice in conditions like lower back, joint pain and even toothaches that never used to justify prescribing opioids.
That breaks my heart.
I can totally relate to the joint pain – not from wearing high heels but from having my ankle crushed in a car accident decades ago. I've had trouble walking the last year as my ankle deteriorated from post-trauma deformities.
But I don't take any pharma painkillers.
My doctor recently prescribed for me an NSAID for the constant pain (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) plus another med to deal with the gastrointestinal distress it would likely cause.
I didn't bother to fill it, even though I have intense bone-on-bone grinding with every step, as there is no cartilage left in my ankle and it is riddled with bone spurs, bone chips and subchondral lesions.
Instead, I doubled-down on elixirs, higher doses of my favorite botanicals and krill oil. Along with lots of ice packs and occasional acupuncture treatments to abate the pain and keep me on my feet.
I wonder if this amazing artist would still be with us if he had done these 2 things differently?
1. Herbals and Supplements: My Front Line for Pain
What if Prince had initially taken turmeric, curcumin, ginger and boswellia (frankincense) for his joint pain?
Not only do these spices help alleviate pain from arthritis and overuse of muscles and joints, they also help address the root cause of inflammation, and help heal instead of being destructively addictive.
Other supplements that may reduce pain or improve other symptoms of osteoarthritis include SAMe, MSM, collagen hydrolysate, hyaluronic acid and omega-3 fatty acids EPA + DHA from green-lipped mussel.
Medical cannabis – legal now in 24 states -- is also shown to relieve chronic pain. While Federal regulations prevent most human research, animal studies show that cannabis added to opioids increased pain relief significantly more than the opioids alone.
That means you can take a lot less opioids for pain relief, with less risk of toxicity.
Some doctors are even using cannabis successfully to help cure patients of their addictions to opioids.
It is a painful irony that the FDA continues its regulation of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, claiming it to be of no medical value and highly addictive.
Did Prince ever try any of these non-toxic approaches? Or did he turn to the medical establishment for pharmaceuticals?
2: New Therapies for Chronic Pain
There's also an amazing new field of medicine called Regenerative Orthopedics that many people haven't heard of. It provide alternatives to conventional treatment such as opioids, drugs, and surgery for chronic pain patients.
You should know about it if you or someone you love is having intense orthopedic or nerve entrapment pain. In knees, hips, shoulder, spine, ankle or other joint.
There are several kinds of treatments that use substances made by your own body to heal and regenerate soft tissues such as tendons, ligaments and cartilage, as well as nerves.
One treatment is called “Platelet rich plasma” (PRP) Therapy. This involves taking a sample of YOUR OWN blood and putting it through special laboratory processes that extract and concentrate specific cells like platelets from your blood that are rich in growth factors. These cells are injected back into your joint. One to three injections may all that be needed to help heal a tendon or other soft tissue.
Another treatment involves taking stem cells from your own body and injecting them into a painful deteriorated joint. This is for more complex issues but worth knowing about if you are in chronic pain and wish to avoid painkillers and surgery.
If you want to learn more, Dr. Michael Brown is a pioneer in the field and has deep dive patient education articles on his website.
The Sad Shame of it All
What if Prince had followed these 2 alternative paths to dealing with chronic pain?
Sadly, Big Pharma, which made more than $8 billion selling opioids in 2010 (and sales continue to rise), is responsible for so much addiction and death. One pharmaceutical company even makes huge profits from overdose medication, the kind that Prince was reported to have taken a week before his death.
In another terrible irony, addiction to pharmaceutical opioids is likely feeding a rise in overdose deaths from illegal street drugs.
As restrictions tighten down on pharma opioids, many patients may turn to heroin for their fix.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), more than 47,000 people in the U.S. die from drug overdoses, most of those directly or indirectly related to opioids. The problem has reached “epidemic” proportions, says the CDC.
It is indeed epidemic, and Prince's death is the most public tragedy in the overdose crisis now gripping America. There are hundreds of thousands of other families affected and millions more who mourn.
The doves cry and we all cry.
With chronic pain also at epidemic levels, I urge you to become familiar with non-toxic means of handling it. Look closely into herbs, supplements, acupuncture, and advanced regenerative therapies such as PRP therapy and stem cell therapy.
If you are as appalled I am by this tragic mess, please leave a comment below and we will cry purple tears together.