Guitarist’s family says doctor fed opioid habit

FILe - In this Sept. 19, 2005 file photo, Matthew Roberts of Three Doors Down performs at halftime of the New York Giants New Orleans Saints game in East Rutherford, N.J. The family of Roberts, who died of a drug overdose in 2016, says in a lawsuit that an Alabama doctor fueled the musician’s opioid addiction. In a lawsuit filed recently in Alabama, Roberts’ family says Dr. Richard Snellgrove began prescribing high levels of opioids to the musician in 2006 and continued doing so until days before he died. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

FILe - In this Sept. 19, 2005 file photo, Matthew Roberts of Three Doors Down performs at halftime of the New York Giants New Orleans Saints game in East Rutherford, N.J. The family of Roberts, who died of a drug overdose in 2016, says in a lawsuit that an Alabama doctor fueled the musician’s opioid addiction. In a lawsuit filed recently in Alabama, Roberts’ family says Dr. Richard Snellgrove began prescribing high levels of opioids to the musician in 2006 and continued doing so until days before he died. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

ATLANTA — The family of a longtime guitarist for 3 Doors Down is accusing an Alabama doctor of fueling the rocker’s opioid addiction before he died of a drug overdose.

Matthew Roberts, 38, was found dead in August 2016 in the hallway of a hotel outside Milwaukee, where he was to perform in a charity concert.

In a lawsuit filed recently in Alabama, Roberts’ family says Dr. Richard Snellgrove began prescribing high levels of opioids to the musician in 2006. The prescriptions continued for years, with one break when Roberts sought help at an Arizona rehabilitation center, until days before his death, according to the suit.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Roberts passed away, but Mr. Roberts passed away because of his abuse of his prescriptions in addition to using other drugs that weren’t associated with his prescriptions,” said Dennis Knizley, who is defending Snellgrove in a separate federal criminal case that arose from the death. “It was definitely unfortunate, but it’s certainly not at the hands of Dr. Snellgrove.”

In the criminal case, Snellgrove faces charges of distributing medications for no legitimate medical need, according to court records in U.S. District Court in Alabama’s southern district.

Fentanyl is “the drug at the center” of the criminal case, prosecutors wrote in court documents that describe it as up to 100 times more potent than morphine.

The death of the musician Prince, 57, in April 2016, at his mansion outside Minneapolis, was blamed on an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

Rock artist Tom Petty had a mix of prescription drugs — including fentanyl — in his system when he died in October in Santa Monica, California, a medical examiner reported last month. Petty, 66, had suffered from a fractured hip and had been prescribed pain medications including fentanyl patches, his family said in a Jan. 19 statement.

In Alabama, prosecutors cited Snellgrove’s own medical records in outlining one reason they say he was prescribing patches containing fentanyl for Roberts: The musician “was in the studio producing a new album and playing the guitar and his hand pain is increasing but he has to do the job,” prosecutors wrote in court records.