Prince died of overdose

NEW YORK • Prince, the music icon who struggled with debilitating hip pain during his career, died from an accidental overdose of self-administered fentanyl, a type of synthetic opiate, officials in Minnesota said on Thursday.

The news ended weeks of speculation about the sudden death of the musician, who had a reputation for clean living but who appears to have developed a dependency on medication to treat his pain.

The authorities have yet to discuss how he came to be in possession of the fentanyl and whether it had been prescribed by a doctor.

Officials had waited several weeks for the results of a toxicology test undertaken as part of an autopsy performed after he was found dead on April 21 in an elevator at his estate.

He was preparing to enrol in an opioid treatment programme when he died at 57, according to the lawyer for a doctor who was preparing to treat him.

The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office conducted the autopsy. The Carver County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate the death with help from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The sheriff's office had said it was looking into whether opioid abuse was a factor and a law enforcement official had said painkillers were found on Prince when investigators arrived.

Fentanyl is a potent but dangerous painkiller, estimated to be more than 50 times more powerful than heroin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report did not list how much fentanyl was found in Prince's blood.

Last year, federal officials issued an alert that said incidents of overdoses with fentanyl were "occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States".

An opioid addiction epidemic has been sweeping across the US. Studies showed that more than 28,000 people died from opioids, which include heroin and painkillers, in 2014.

Fentanyl can be consumed in a variety of ways, including through patches, injections, smoking and a lollipop. It is unclear what method of administration Prince used.

Dr Torin Finver, an addiction medicine specialist at the Jacobs School of Medicine at the University of Buffalo, said it can be easier to overdose on the drug because its effects last shorter than other opiates, thus leading users to dose more frequently, and possibly accidentally consume too much.

The illicit shipment of fentanyl into the US has become a major concern for federal officials, who say the substance has become an increasingly popular product of drug cartels in Mexico and is often mixed with heroin.

Prince's body was worn down from decades of taxing performances, in which he often did splits or jumped from heights on platform shoes, people close to him said.

One said Prince had hip surgery in the mid-2000s, but it did not completely alleviate his pain.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Prince died of overdose'. Print Edition | Subscribe