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It’s Now Official: Prince Died of a Drug Overdose

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office has determined that Prince died as the result of an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl–“fentanyl toxicity”–the same opioid drug (a drug fifty times more potent than heroin) that’s killing an alarming number of people across Canada. That was the only thing that killed him. As to the source of the drug (legal? illegal?), the report says nothing. Apparently nothing more will be said on the matter.

This confirms much of what many have suspected all along. There were the allegations from a drug dealer and all kinds of questions about various doctors, visits to hospitals and clinics, and late-night trips to pharmacies–not to mention that mysterious emergency landing of his private jet has he made his way back to Minneapolis following shows in Atlanta where Prince is alleged to have been given a “save shot” to counter some kind of medical distress.

Prince weighed all of 112 pounds when he died.

Friends have maintained no knowledge or reason to believe Prince had any addiction issues at the time of his death. But it has been reported that, due to injuries related to his athletic performances early in his career, Prince was taking strong painkillers in order to keep performing.

Prince’s apparent troubles with opioids are the same ones plaguing many North American cities, as people prescribed powerful pain medicines to treat chronic conditions, from back pain to dental pain, become dependent upon the class of drugs, which includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codine.

While tragic, Prince’s death is an opportunity to reframe the conversation on painkiller addiction, Dr. Drew Pinsky told Billboard Thursday afternoon.

“It’s confusing to me why Prince is suddenly the one who’s broken through,” he said. “Look at the death of any musician or celebrity in the last five years; 95% plus of them will be exactly the same kind of death. I’ve been screaming loudly about this for five years and complaining for 10.”

Cities are struggling to deal with prescription drug addiction, something noted last month by President Obama and rapper Macklemore, the latter of which is himself a previous prescription drug abuser. Macklemore is currently working on a documentary on the subject that will air on MTV later this year.

Marcia Lee Taylor, CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, has stated that prescription drug abuse and overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, with some 44 people dying from prescription drug overdoses every day, while 78 people die from opioid overdoses daily.

The first celebrity death in recent memory that grabbed Pinsky’s attention on prescription drug abuse? Heath Ledger, in January 2008. “I said then, ‘Here it comes,'” he told Billboard. “This is a major health issue of our time that’s being reflected in the recent deaths of celebrities and musicians. I’m glad this one is finally getting people’s attention.”

More reporting at CNN and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. And when you’re done, read this.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38410 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “It’s Now Official: Prince Died of a Drug Overdose

  • If the report comes back and shows an opiate overdose I think we need to understand what that really means. He didn’t die from a drug overdose – he died from chronic pain, which is the reason why he was taking opiates. But take that further, chronic pain caused from surgeries to correct/repair damage to his hips caused by years of music performances in the 80’s/90’s in crazy shoes. Pain that he needed to find a way to fight through to be able to keep making and performing the music that *had* to move through him. So if you analyze all the information, Prince’s real cause of death? He died for his music.

    • I see what you’re trying to say, but if we’re looking at the pure cause of death, it looks like it was overuse of painkillers.


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