Michael Jackson’s premature death has shocked the world. His talent was so transcendent, it’s difficult to understand how his last decades could be so marked by severe drug misuse that it has cut short his life.
Those who knew him tell of his physical and psychic pain. But most addicts suffer psychic pain — often not fully appreciated until they begin to unearth their demons in treatment. Like Michael, many addicts are hooked in the course of proper medical treatment. Most physicians appreciate the potential for patients becoming addicted. This can occur even with the most prudent medical management. But the combination of sorrow over declining bodily powers and physical pain provide an all too common pathway to prescription drug misuse. Sadly, there are physicians who become passively or actively involved in their patient’s addiction to prescription drugs. Moreover, it’s also very difficult to say “no” to someone with Michael’s star power. Many prescription drug addicts see multiple doctors, zigging and zagging between different doctors and different pharmacies. Their dose levels rise, and their overall function falls.
I suspect the puzzle of Michael Jackson’s drug use and bodily failure will be more clearly analyzed. But ultimately, his death should be remembered, as was Elvis Presley’s, as preventable, and the enablers, professional or otherwise, should be held accountable.Mitchell S. Rosenthal, M.D. Founder, Phoenix House
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