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Medical examiner: Prince overdosed on fentanyl

Prince Associated Press/Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision

Medical examiner: Prince overdosed on fentanyl

Medical examiners confirmed today that Prince, a superstar with a reputation for clean living, was a victim of an accidental opioid overdose.

Based on investigation into the weeks leading up to his death, this medical report confirms what investigators suspected: The leading cause of accidental death in America has claimed yet another life.

But why had investigators already come to this conclusion?

For starters, two weeks before his death on April 21, Prince called off concerts in Atlanta, saying he wasn’t feeling well. Then, one week later, Prince’s plane made an emergency stop for medical treatment as he was returning from Atlanta. Anonymous sources told The Associated Press the superstar was unconscious on the plane and first responders gave him a shot of Narcan, an antidote used in suspected opioid overdoses. A week after that, the 57-year-old singer died in an elevator at his estate in Minneapolis.

Another celebrity dying of an opioid overdose shines a spotlight on the grim reality this epidemic is creating in America.

Opiate dependence, involving opioid pain relievers, affects about 2.1 million people in the United States according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Pain patients who have built up a tolerance to prescription pain relievers, or who have become addicted, sometimes seek out stronger drugs like heroin or fentanyl.

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office found fentanyl in Prince’s autopsy. Fentanyl is a powerful opioid pain reliever that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin. Because of its risks, it is tightly controlled by the Food and Drug Administration.

Even still, the Drug Enforcement Administration reported more than 700 fentanyl-related overdoses in 2013 and 2014.

So perhaps we could say Prince deserves thanks for “dying 4 u” because it has sharply focused national attention once again on the other, on average, 80 people who die daily due to opiate overdoses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Margaret Tazioli Margaret is a WORLD intern.


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