Local drug addiction experts hope Prince's death serves as warning

Did Prince die of an overdose?

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Federal authorities, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, are looking into Prince's death to determine if he died of an overdose. The singer's family members claim he had an addiction to an opiate, Percocet. It's a problem that local doctors say is becoming an epidemic.

Psychiatrist Arwen Podesta believes the publicity generated from Prince's untimely death could help save another life.

"It is a time for teaching and a time to get ahead of the curve," Podesta said. "It's been a growing problem, and it's just getting worse right now."

Opiate addiction, which includes drugs like heroin, Percocet, and Vicodin, is on the rise.

"It's a terrible addiction. A lot of people who are addicted to it don't want help or don't think they need help," said Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich.

But an attorney said Prince was trying to get help. In fact, he allegedly had an appointment with a California addiction specialist the morning he died. Dr. Howard Kornfeld sent his son, also an addiction specialist, to meet with Prince. Instead, Andrew Kornfeld actually made the 911 call when he and staffers found the singer unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park.

"Andrew's purpose in being there was to describe the Recovery Without Walls program, to familiarize Prince with that. Prince could go there for pain management and any addiction issues," attorney William Mauzy said.

Toxicology results haven't been made public yet, but Cvitanovich said he'd be surprised if Prince had only Percocet in his system.

"If you're addicted to opiates, it's very unlikely you're going to take enough pills accidentally to cause an overdose in an elevator," Cvitanovich said.

Podesta said families trying to save a loved one shouldn't feel helpless.

"You can look on psychologytoday.com and put your zip code and your specialty needs in. If you need an intervention specialist, there are some listed there, too," Podesta said.

She explains there are many resources for both the insured and uninsured to help someone get clean.

Podesta said one of the best resources for people in New Orleans is Metropolitan Human Services. They have people that can screen addicts and help to best identify where they can go for treatment, depending on their addiction and need.

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