Las Vegas entertainer Danny Gans was found dead yesterday. The coroner said that the cause of death was acute hydromorphone toxicity. His agent said that "Danny lived a good, clean Christian life. He was not a drug user. He would have a glass of wine because they say red wine is good for you. He didn't smoke."
The coroner Mike Murphy said that "This is not a case of drug abuse," calling the death accidental. His agent, Chip Lightman, said that even Gans wife didn't know how he obtained the drug.
I have some familiarity with Hydromorphone, more commonly known as dilaudid, having gotten hooked on it once after cancer surgery and once during orthopedic surgery. I was given it during my most recent cancer bout but got off it as soon as I was able to in the hospital. The memory of the addiction, twenty years later, was still vivid and horrible. Dilaudid is a potent drug ten times more powerful than morphine.
During my first run in with the substance, I was instructed to ring a bell when I requested a shot. One day, I asked the doctor if he had cut the dosage. He sheepishly admitted that he had. "But I only ring the bell once a day," I protested. He showed me the truth, I had been ringing that damn bell every hour. My brain completely deluded me, lied to me, so that I could get more narcotic. Such is the nature of Dilaudid.
I bring up the topic because we are experiencing a prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country. Oxycontin, Hydromorphone, Ritalin, Vicodin, Valium and other legal pharmaceuticals are wreaking havoc in our communities. Abuse rates among teens and the elderly are skyrocketing.
Yet there is little onus on the use of these powerful substances because they are legal medicines, unlike immoral and illegal drugs like marijuana, which as far as I know has never caused a single person to overdose. Rush Limbaugh can become an addict and remain a hero to his flock. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist reportedly was addicted to Placidyl for over 9 years during his tenure, a violation of the law for a person on the bench that could probably render his legal opinions invalid if challenged.
I have a dear friend whose significant other has developed an addiction to Norco which has caused serious withdrawal symptoms in the past several weeks following a cardiac event. When I suggested that the spouse might be better served with marijuana for pain relief, my friend was horrified.
Somehow there is less opprobrium from society if you develop an addiction to a prescription drug. Google prescription drug abuse Utah and you will see that that very moral state led the nation in abuse of prescription drugs until last year. I have known several alcoholics, who have been through the program and stopped drinking, only to land a socially acceptable monkey on their back, courtesy of a friendly doctor's prescription. A monkey they can justify.
Addiction is a horrible disease I wouldn't wish on anybody. It strikes all people regardless of color or creed or station in life. I don't know if Danny Gans was an addict or not, but apparently his good clean moral fiber was not strong enough to save him.