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Slipknot Bassist Dies from Overdose of Prescription Painkillers

The bassist of the edgy rock band Slipknot, Paul Gray, was found dead at age 38 in 2010 in a Iowa hotel room.  Autopsies revealed that he had a combination of morphine and fentanyl in his system, supplied by his doctor, Daniel Baldi.  Baldi is now on trial for the death of Gray and eight others and faces involuntary manslaughter charges for carelessly prescribing powerful and addictive prescription drugs.  Gray’s death highlights the growing problem of prescription painkiller addiction and the lax attitude of some doctors in prescribing them, even to patients who have a history of drug abuse.

Widow Takes the Stand, Recalls Husband’s Grim Final Days

Brenna Gray recently took the stand to testify about her experience with her husband’s drug abuse and final days.  She testified that she had desperately asked Dr. Baldi and the Slipknot band mates to help her confront her husband about his problem, but neither would cooperate.  She also stated that she found a needle in their toilet at home just a week prior to her husband’s death and asked Dr. Baldi to check Paul’s body for track marks.  Although Dr. Baldi checked her husband’s hands and arms for track marks, she knew they were already scarred from prior drug use and would likely tell him little about a current drug problem.  He never checked Paul’s feet, she says, and she also found out that Paul had tested positive for drugs at several doctor’s appointments with Baldi.  Nevertheless, Baldi continued to prescribe fentanyl and morphine to Paul.  Dr. Baldi’s attorney argues that Paul may have gotten the drugs elsewhere, since only one pill bottle found in the hotel room had the doctor’s name on the label.  Baldi faces up to 18 years in prison if he is found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 9 cases involving former patients.

Prescription Drug Abuse a Bigger Problem Than Illegal Drugs

Reports released in recent years suggest that prescription drug abuse, typically to prescription painkillers, is a bigger problem than addiction to illegal drugs.  While the U.S. spends about $15 billion per year fighting illegal drugs, addiction to prescription drugs contributes to approximately 15,000 deaths per year in this country.  Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to combat the powerful backers of the prescription drug industry, including lobbyists and financial backers who gain from the sale of prescription drugs.  Some doctors also argue that tightening regulations around prescription painkillers, in particular, would be detrimental to patients who sincerely need and benefit from their proper use.   Apparently, the FDA isn’t in disagreement with these sentiments either, as they recently approved a prescription painkiller ten times more powerful than oxycontin.


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