The autopsy report uncovered by the Associated Press found that Prince had a high concentration of fentanyl in his body, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin. The report also confirmed that his death was most likely due to an accidental overdose. The Purple Rain singer was just 57 years old when he was found unresponsive on April 21st, 2016 in one of the elevators of his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota.
Dr. Lewis Nelson, chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told USA Today that the fentanyl concentrations were a pretty clear smoking gun. “The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” Nelson explained. According to court documents, none of the drugs found in Prince’s home were prescribed to him.
Opioids are pain reducing drugs, and while there are many legal kinds used in hospitals and medicine, such as morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone, there are also unregulated and illegal types, like heroin and fentanyl.
Prince’s toxicology report showed that there was 67.8 micrograms of fentanyl per liter in his system. Fatalities can occur with blood levels ranging from three to 58 micrograms per liter. There were also large concentrations of fentanyl in the singer’s liver and stomach. Experts say there isn’t one designated lethal level of fentanyl because people who frequently take prescription opioids build up a tolerance, meaning a blood level that might be fatal for one user may be sustainable for another.
Authorities found numerous pills in Prince’s home, and the Associated Press report noted that many of the pills tested positive for fentanyl. The lead prosecutor on the case is reviewing reports, and will be making a decision on whether or not to pursue a criminal investigation in the near future.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 11.5 million Americans 12 and older misused prescription pain medication in 2016, and in that same year there were 42,249 overdose deaths involving opioids.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, don’t hesitate to call the National Opiate Hotline at 1-888-784-6641.