The Death of Tom Petty and the Opioid Epidemic

The Story:

Musician Tom Petty, the front man of “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers” from 1976 to 1987, died on October 2, 2017. In January 2018, autopsy results revealed the cause: an accidental overdose of prescription pain medication.

The Hope:

On January 20, Petty’s family put out a statement on the autopsy results, expressing the hope that this news may “spark a further discussion of the opioid crisis,” which would be a “healthy and necessary discussion.” The family also thanked Petty’s fans for their “love and support over the last months.”

Three months before Petty’s death the National Academy of Science had published a 400 page report, saying that opioids were killing 91 people every day.

The Thing to Know: 

Opioids have a sedating effect on the part of the brain that controls breathing, creating a risk of respiratory failure and thus of death among users, both those who (in Petty’s situation) take them to mitigate pain and those who take them recreationally.



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