Prince's addiction and an intervention too late

Late US musician Prince appeared to have shielded from even some of his closest friends that he had a problem with pain pills.
Late US musician Prince appeared to have shielded from even some of his closest friends that he had a problem with pain pills.PHOTO: REUTERS

CHANHASSEN, MINNEAPOLIS • Prince had a reputation among those close to him for leading a clean lifestyle. He ate vegan and was known to eschew alcohol and marijuana and no one on tour with him could indulge either.

But he appears to have shielded from even some of his closest friends that he had a problem with pain pills, one that grew so acute his friends sought urgent help last month from Dr Howard Kornfeld of California, who specialises in treating people addicted to painkillers.

Dr Kornfeld sent his son on an overnight flight to meet Prince at his home to discuss treatment, said Mr William J. Mauzy, a lawyer for the Kornfeld family, on Wednesday. But he arrived too late.

When Mr Andrew Kornfeld, who works with his father but is not a doctor, arrived on the morning of April 21, he was among those who found Prince lifeless in an elevator and called 911, Mr Mauzy said. He was dead at 57.

As law enforcement officials continue to investigate what killed the pop icon, there is mounting evidence that he had become seriously dependent on painkillers. Many have insisted that they never even saw Prince take pills.

Prince began taking painkillers years ago and decided to have hip surgery in the mid-2000s, after which he was prescribed more pain medicine, according to a person who worked with him and requested anonymity. But rarely did he let musicians who toured with him know how much his hips hurt from decades of high-voltage performances and jumping onstage in platform heels. They would notice only small things, such as he stopped doing splits.

When his private jet had to make an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, last month after he became unresponsive, friends decided they might need to intervene, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. Prince assured them nothing was wrong.Days later, though, his representatives were looking for help from an addiction doctor, which was first reported by The Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Mr Kornfeld was sent to Paisley Park to try to get Prince's condition stabilised, Mr Mauzy said.

"The hope was to get him stabilised in Minnesota and convince him to come to Recovery Without Walls in Mill Valley," Mr Mauzy said. "That was the plan."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'Prince's addiction and an intervention too late'. Print Edition | Subscribe