Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Coroner's Report on Tom Petty and other Loose Thoughts

This is not going to be the post I want to write, but the time for that is not quite now.

As if the loss of Tom Petty was not bad enough, now the New York Times reports that it was accidental and unintentional:
Tom Petty, the chart-topping singer and songwriter, died in October from an accidental drug overdose as a result of mixing medications that included opioids, the medical examiner-coroner for the county of Los Angeles announced on Friday, ending the mystery surrounding his sudden death last year.  
The coroner, Jonathan Lucas, said that Mr. Petty’s system showed traces of the drugs fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetyl fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl.
The opioid crisis is everywhere we turn and I've been running into it more than I would like lately.

I have no clue what the answers are to this.  I know we have been at "war on drugs" for decades and I don't see that much has changed.  Politicians have feathers in their caps for passing this legislation or that legislation but we still have a terrible drug crisis.

There are a million rabbit holes to explore on this topic and I'm only beginning to try to learn more about it. I have heard the conspiracy theories about big pharma and while I am reluctant to accept those theories in totality, I do think there is some dirty business there that should be explored. (I just re-watched Dallas Buyers  Club on Netflix last night!)

That list of drugs that Tom Petty had in his system is staggering. The drug fentanyl has been in the headlines a great deal lately and I personally know at least one person who died from this drug in the past year, much too young.  Oxycodone was the drug in the headlines before fentanyl and has been tightly controlled because of its strong addictive properties.  At least two of the drugs in Mr. Petty's system are benzos and those are terrible drugs.  Alprazolam is Xanax and as far as I'm concerned, that one is as bad as fentanyl and oxycodone.

Obviously all of these drugs have medical benefit when used in a carefully controlled and monitored fashion, but the potential for abuse is so real.

That all of these drugs were in Mr. Petty's system is stunning.  I understand from the NYT article that he had a broken hip and was in terrible pain.  I get that.  And I understand that his overdose was an accident.  But wasn't somebody monitoring all these meds?  Who thought it was a good idea to take all of those together?

I'm in no way judging Tom Petty or anyone here -- I want to be clear about that.  His personal medical situation is not my business.

That being said, I do think that prescription drug abuse is a very serious problem.

As I said, I have no answers whatsoever.  I'm just ruminating and I'm starting to learn more.  I recently went to my physician for a wellness check and we had a conversation about this.  She shared with me how new regulations are cracking down on writing many of these prescriptions and that in Texas, she said, it is very difficult to get prescription pain meds.  I have done no research on that and am not sure what kinds of cases she is referring to, but I do hope that there is some truth in it.

Do a simple Google search on benzodiazapine, or xanax, addiction.  The stories are terrifying.  Do the same for fentanyl, and oxycontin.

I know nothing about this is particularly informative or news to anyone -- like I said, this is just on my mind.  I have some stories fairly close to home on this subject that I'll eventually write about, but not today.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experience on this.

Further Reading:
1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours  (The New York Times )
Beautiful Boy:  A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction (Amazon link)


david7134 said...

First, there is no abuse of prescription drugs. As a physician, I have difficulty writing prescriptions for opiates due to the many rules and regulations. Also, people who use these drugs in a legal manner are under very close scrutiny by the government, for no real reason. The source of these drugs is the Mexican border and illegal distribution. This is wrong, people should have ready access to medications that can make their lives easier. Innocent doctors are being fined and imprisoned due to our ineffective laws.

Now, go to Europe. You can buy almost anything across the counter like aspirin. They have fewer problems than we do. Best answer is to allow ready access to drugs and if people desire to abuse them, then that is their decision, not the government.

Pat Austin Becker said...

@david: I agree with what you said, I think. On a somewhat unrelated note: does a physician have an ethical, or even legal, obligation to cover his patients if he is going to be unavailable and unreachable for say...two or three months? Especially if those patients are on medications that one must taper off of?