Prince's Cause of Death: Opioid Overdose - Rolling Stone
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Prince’s Cause of Death: Opioid Overdose

Tests confirm accidental Fentanyl overdose after weeks of speculation

UPDATE: Nearly two years after Prince’s death, a newly unsealed toxicology report reveals that the singer had an “exceedingly high” level of Fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. The Associated Press reports that Prince’s blood stream had 67.8 micrograms per liter of the powerful opioid; overdoses often occur when the Fentanyl levels reach three to 58 micrograms per liter, the AP notes.

After weeks of speculation, law enforcement officials confirmed Thursday that Prince died of an opioid overdose, according to the Associated Press. In a report released by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, the singer died of an accidental Fentanyl overdose.

Leading up to today’s announcement, news sites have speculated about Prince’s alleged drug use around the time of his death on April 21st. Although the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office said initially that an autopsy on the artist was inconclusive – it wanted to wait until the toxicology report came in – investigators reported in late April that Prince had been in possession of prescription painkillers. The Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Attorney joined the investigation in early May.

StarTribune reported that investigators were also researching what role painkillers played in the emergency hospital visit he made the week before his death. The Associated Press claimed that investigators were looking into whether or not a doctor was aboard the plane at the time. The news service also reported that Prince was unconscious at the time the plane landed, and that first responders administered a shot of Narcan – which offsets suspected opioid overdoses. At the time, news reports said that Prince was either suffering dehydration or fighting the flu.

It was later revealed that he had been struggling with an addiction to pain pills. His friends attempted to get him help from an addiction specialist, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, who runs a treatment center in Mill Valley, California. A lawyer for the doctor’s family told The New York Times that he had sent his son, Andrew, to Paisley Park to meet with the artist, but he arrived too late. He was the one who called 911.

Prince was performing dates on his Piano and a Microphone tour in the months leading up to his death. In early April, he canceled a date in Atlanta, reportedly because of the flu, and made up for it with a pair of performances at the city’s Fox Theater on April 14th.

The artist’s lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, told the AP that he had spoken to Prince the Sunday before his death. “He said he was doing perfect,” the attorney said. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll call you soon.'” When the AP asked about substance abuse, McMillan said the artist was “not on any drugs that would be any cause for concern.”

Michael Padden – a lawyer for Prince’s siblings Lorna and Duane Nelson – said that over a decade ago Prince had “substantial” problems with Percocet and cocaine. “Lorna told me that her brother would die young … before his time and of a heart attack,” he told StarTribune of his now deceased client.

Prince leaves behind an estate worth millions and reportedly no will. Lawyers for Prince’s six siblings and half-siblings attended a hearing in a court outside of Minneapolis in early May. The artist’s sister, Tyka Nelson, and a Carver County judge agreed to appoint Bremer Trust as a temporary special administrator for the estate. Reps for Bremer Trust are still looking for a will. The company has already drilled open Prince’s vault of thousands of recordings.

Prince’s remains were cremated after the autopsy, and a small group of family, friends and musicians gathered to pay their respects. “We ask for your blessings and prayers of comfort for his family and close friends at this time,” a rep said at the time. “An announcement will be made at a future date for a musical celebration.”

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