What is Fentanyl? How The Drug Killed Prince

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Prince, pop culture icon and music legend died from fentanyl overdose

Officials in Minnesota released a statement on Thursday stating that the artist, who self-administered the painkiller fentanyl accidentally took an overdose which resulted in his death. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate estimated to be 50 times more potent than heroin according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

This latest update on the case may have ended heated speculations about his sudden death but the autopsy report gave a bit of a shock to his friends and fans since Prince, a Jehovah’s Witness strived for a clean life. He typically ate a vegan diet as he never allowed meat in his house, he frowned upon drinking alcohol and strongly abhorred recreational drugs.

Prince’s reliance on the painkillers may have resulted from decades of physically wearing performances. The star is known to be quite the entertainer, his repertoire often included splits and in some instances, jumping from heights in platform shoes. In a show in the mid-2000s, Prince sustained a hip injury and undergone a surgery. Although the surgery was successful, one person who knew him said that Prince had been suffering from pain as the surgery did not completely alleviate it. On the medical report, the examiner noted scars on Prince’s left hip as well as on his lower right leg.

Although the autopsy reports released by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office were an important fragment of the whole case, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the death with help from federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The M.E. report is one piece of the whole thing,” said Jason Kamerud, chief deputy sheriff of the county.

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Authorities are investigating whether opioid abuse was a factor since a substantial amount of the painkillers were found on Prince when the investigators arrived. The medical report did not list how much fentanyl was found in Prince’s blood but law enforcement officials say that incidents and overdoses with fentanyl were “occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States”. The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office declined to comment beyond releasing a copy of its findings through their twitter account.

The pop icon’s death has raised suspicions since it came at a time when an opioid addiction epidemic has been sweeping the United States.

A couple of weeks before his tragic death, Prince was scheduled to perform in Atlanta but was postponed due to his health condition, his management released an official statement saying that the performer had flu. The show was rescheduled a week later but after the show, on his flight back to Minneapolis, his private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Ill. Prince fell unconscious during the flight and required emergency medical treatment. A law enforcement official who was briefed on the matter confirmed that Prince was treated with Narcan, a drug whose purpose is to counteract the effects of opioid overdose.


Here are some things you might have missed

  • His publicist stated that he had severe flu after finishing the show and it became complicated during the flight back home thus leading to the emergency landing. After the emergency, Prince informed his friends and associates that he was O.K.
  • Before his death on April 21 in an elevator at his estate, at 57 years old, Prince was preparing to undergo an opioid treatment program according to William Mauzy, the lawyer for the California-based doctor, Howard Kornfield, who was planning to treat him.
  • Dr. Howard Kornfield sent his son, Andrew Kornfield, who is not a doctor but works at his father’s clinic on an overnight flight to Prince’s Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minn., Mr. Mauzy said. Upon arrival on the morning of April 21, he went into the manor accompanied by two members of Prince’s staff but they found the singer unresponsive on the elevator floor. They then called 911.
  • Andrew Kornfield was tasked to deliver a drug used to treat opioid addiction, although unauthorized to dispense medications. Mr. Kornfield had not given Prince any medication and Mr. Mauzy said he hoped his client would not be charged with any crime. A good Samaritan law allows people to call 911 to get someone help without worrying about criminal consequences.

Opiates addiction should be taken seriously. This tragic event has the whole world taking a closer look at what we can do to prevent anymore deaths from happening. If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction, please take the necessary steps to get the help needed to overcome it. Start the process of recovery.


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