A day after news broke that Prince died of an overdose of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts hosted a (previously-scheduled) round-table discussion about the drug at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Among the people on the panel was Kaitlyn Oberle of Scituate, whose brother died of a fentanyl overdose after having been clean for a year. Unlike heroin, she said, fentanyl overdoses can’t be reversed with the drug Narcan.
“They’re all potentially deadly," she said. "But what we’re seeing is that fentanyl is so much more deadly. And unfortunately, my brother didn’t have that second chance. He relapsed once and that was his last time. There’s no going back from that.”
Senator Markey says 754 people died in Massachusetts last year from fentanyl related overdoes. He says more needs to be done to stop the spread of the drug.
“We need stronger policies, stronger negotiating positions with the Chinese, with the Mexicans, with other governments that are the principal source of this synthetic opioid.”
The round-table with officials from law enforcement, border protection, and health and recovery experts was scheduled before the news about Prince broke. But Markey said that tragedy illustrates a growing problem in the country.
“Prince’s death will help us now to explain that fentanyl is now on the streets of America and Massachusetts," he said. "It’s cheaper, it’s more deadly, it works more quickly than any opioid before. And as a result, it poses a greater threat to anyone who uses it."
Markey said he hopes there will now be a national conversation about the dangers of fentanyl.
“And hopefully that discussion will help to lead to putting protections in place for families who are far less famous than Prince."