Last week, authorities reported that Prince’s mysterious and sudden death was caused by an overdose of the opioid fentanyl.
The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office revealed its investigation results on twitter, which states that the injury occurred due to “self-administered fentanyl” and labels the manner of death as an “accident.” The address of injury is marked as “residence” and the date as “unknown.” Other than these vague facts, as well as some basic personal information and descriptions of his appearance and clothing, the report does not offer many details and does not really defog the story of the renowned pop star’s death. The medical examiner’s office tweeted that its death investigation with the Carver County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing and that it would have make no further comment.
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug which doctors prescribe as treatment for chronic pain or as a post-surgery analgesic, particularly for patients who have built up a tolerance to opiates. It is similar to morphine, but much more potent. A recent spike in overdose deaths in some areas of the country has been partially attributed to fentanyl use, but these dangers are predominantly associated with illegally produced fentanyl, which is often mixed with heroin. The toxicology report for Prince’s death did not indicate whether the fentanyl he self-administered was prescribed or illegally produced, and investigators have not yet found any evidence of an opioid prescription. Though the manner of death is concluded to be an accident, federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration are still conducting a criminal investigation of how and from whom Prince obtained the fentanyl, and whether this process was legal. Under federal law, the illegal distribution of fentanyl to someone who dies from its use is punishable by a minimum sentence of 20 years.
More information about Prince’s potential abuse of prescription drugs has since surfaced from his friends, family, and attorneys. The singer was known for clean living, so it comes as a surprise to many that he had allegedly been suffering from addiction leading up to his death. According to his half-siblings, Prince had been addicted to Percocet for decades. One claims that that he began using the drug to the relieve knee and hip pains that came with years of spellbindingly vigorous and thus physically demanding performances.
On a homebound flight after a show in Atlanta, less than a week before his death, Prince fell unconscious and his plane made an emergency stop at Moline, Illinois, where he received treatment for a potential painkiller overdose. Prince’s son reported that a day before his death, his team called Dr. Howard Kornfeld, an opioid addiction specialist, in order to address Prince’s pain management and addiction concerns. However, the specialist was unable to depart immediately, so he sent his son, Andrew Kornfeld, to bring a medical treatment for opioid addiction to a doctor in Minnesota scheduled to visit Prince on April 21st. When the younger Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park the morning of that day, he and two of Prince’s representatives found the popstar unconscious in an elevator.
In light of such information, perhaps Prince’s death is not as sudden as it seemed to many at first. But even if the signs and causes of his death had been clear months beforehand, the loss of a such an iconic vanguard of music, style, performance, and all things avant-garde inevitably shakes the world.
Photo by Berto Garcia