The recent shocking death of Prince from a prescription opioid overdose introduced many to America’s opioid abuse crisis, including many in the music icon’s inner circle and the media, who purportedly had no idea that he secretly battled addiction for years—a common aspect of this exploding healthcare epidemic.
For Bruce Fiene, a 16-year WPI employee in the Academic Technology Center, the story of Prince’s death from fentanyl (a synthetic opioid with 50 times the potency of pharmaceutical grade heroin), as well as how well the artist kept his addiction hidden, hit close to home.
Fiene says two years ago he was just working and raising a family when he discovered, through a family friend, that his 18-year-old son was using heroin. “It came as a complete surprise,” he says.
Bruce learned that, in what appears to be a common path to addiction, his son got his first opioid pill, a prescription Percocet, around the age of 16 from a friend’s medicine cabinet at a party. At 17, he dabbled some more in legal pharmaceuticals, learning to crush and smoke them. By the time he turned 18, Fiene says, his son was shooting up much cheaper, and more readily available, heroin on a regular basis—all without his family’s knowledge. In a matter of months, the star pupil taking college courses while still a high school junior devolved into a dropout, forced to enter rehab full-time. “He lost it all,” says Fiene.