It’s Official: Prince Died Of An Accidental Opioid Painkiller Overdose

The medical examiner’s report finally confirms what many suspected.

The results of the Midwest Medical Examiner’s investigation into Prince’s premature death are in: The musician died of self-administered accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, a highly potent and addictive opioid used to treat severe pain, and a drug that is widely overprescribed and abused in the U.S.

The official cause of death on the Medical Examiner’s report, which you can read in full here, is “fentanyl toxicity,” and confirmed as accidental. The report cited the date of injury as “unknown” suggesting that Prince may have been unattended since the night before his death, or that the drug was taken the previous day. 

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In the days and weeks following Prince’s sudden death, there was widespread speculation that it may have been caused by a painkiller overdose, and Prince was believed to be in chronic pain due to hip and ankle injuries, and had to be revived after an emergency landing of his plane the week before his death. 

Still, the news that his death was caused by a drug as potent as fentanyl will likely come as a surprise — but perhaps only to those outside his inner circle, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported earlier this month that Prince’s team had sought an urgent intervention for the singer. The story gets more tragic with every new finding.

The investigation will continue, and will likely focus on the source of the fentanyl that killed Prince, who was seen leaving a pharmacy the day before his body was found. Fentanyl is more potent than morphine, and is often mixed with other even more dangerous drugs if obtained illegally. From the National Institute of Drug Abuse’s website:

When prescribed by a physician, fentanyl is often administered via injection, transdermal patch, or in lozenge form. However, the type of fentanyl associated with recent overdoses was produced in clandestine laboratories and mixed with (or substituted for) heroin in a powder form.

Other findings in the medical report include a scar on Prince’s hip and right lower leg, suggesting the possibility that Prince had indeed undergone hip and possibly ankle surgery due to chronic pain conditions. There have been reports claiming that Prince’s faith as a Jehovah’s Witness would have prevented him from agreeing to surgery, but that was never confirmed. 

The report also states the Prince was cremated, but the date and location of his burial are unknown.