Prince, the music icon who struggled with debilitating hip pain during his career, died from an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl, a type of synthetic opiate, officials in Minnesota said Thursday.
The news ended weeks of speculation about the sudden death of the musician, who had a reputation for clean living but who appears to have developed a dependency on medications to treat his pain.
Authorities have yet to discuss how he came to be in possession of the fentanyl and whether it had been prescribed by a doctor.
Officials had waited several weeks for the results of a toxicology test undertaken as part of an autopsy performed after he was found dead April 21 in an elevator at his estate. He was preparing to enroll in an opioid treatment program when he died at 57, according to the lawyer for a doctor who was preparing to treat him.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted the autopsy, declined to comment beyond releasing a copy of its findings. The Carver County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the death with assistance from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. The sheriff’s office had said it was investigating whether opioid abuse was a factor, and a law enforcement official had said that painkillers were found on Prince when investigators arrived.
Fentanyl is a potent but dangerous painkiller, estimated to be more than 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report did not list how much fentanyl was found in Prince’s blood. Last year, federal officials issued an alert that said incidents of overdoses with fentanyl were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States.”
Weeks before his death, Prince postponed a concert in Atlanta, saying that he had the flu. A week later, he made up the show, but on the flight home to Minneapolis he fell unconscious and his private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Ill. There, emergency medical personnel treated him with Narcan, a drug typically used to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the matter.
New York Times