Prince had Percocet in his system when he died, according to unnamed sources close to the investigation into the singer’s death.
As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, it’s unclear, as of this writing, whether or not the powerful prescription narcotic played a role in Prince’s death. However, mounting evidence indicates the singer was battling with an opioid addiction at the time of his death.
On Wednesday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office both announced that they would be assisting Carver County authorities with the investigation into Prince’s death. The feds are interested in how Prince obtained Percocet, any other opioid narcotics, or any other medications that are commonly used to treat painkiller addiction.
Nationwide, the abuse of prescription painkillers has reached epidemic levels, according to the Week. Some 1.9 million Americans are now dependent on legal painkillers — opioid narcotics derived from the opium poppy, the same plant whose derivatives are used to produce heroin. In 2014 alone, 47,000 Americans fatally overdosed on prescription painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, and the worst offender, OxyContin.
“As little as two weeks of opioid treatment can produce drug tolerance in some patients, meaning they need larger doses to get the same effect. The cycle of craving and tolerance can have deadly consequences.”
Prince, for his part, was rumored to have been battling a prescription painkiller addiction since he had hip surgery in 2010, according to ET Online. Prince’s friend and collaborator, Sheila E., described the abuse the musician put on his body during his stage performances.
“I mean, you think about all the years he was jumping off those risers. They were not low — they were very, very high — and to jump off that… First of all, the Purple Rain tour and the way that they were stacked, he had those heels on. We did a year of touring [and] for him to jump off of that — just an entire year would have messed up his knees. He was in pain all the time, but he was a performer.”
On April 15, a week before his death, Prince suffered an overdose on his plane while en route from Atlanta to Minneapolis and was treated at a hospital in Moline, Illinois. There, doctors gave him naloxone, or Narcan, a drug used to counteract the effects of opioids.
At the time of his death, Prince appeared to have been trying to get a handle on his addiction. One of the first people to have found him dead, and the person who made the 911 call, was addiction specialist Andrew Kornfeld from the California-based Recovery Without Walls, according to MSN.
Kornfeld and his father, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, have been known to use Suboxone, a drug containing buprenorphine, as part of addiction treatment. Suboxone is useful in treating opioid addiction in two ways: the drug buprenorphine helps manage the very pain the user sought treatment for, and naloxone helps to reduce opioid cravings.
According to Dr. Marvin Seppala, Hazelden’s chief medical officer, Suboxone is something of a miracle drug in treating opioid addiction.
“It limits cravings and helps a number of patients with opioid-use disorder engage in treatment and stick around in treatment.”
Andrew Kornfeld had brought a “starter dose” of buprenorphine with him when he was summoned to Prince’s home.
Still, the investigation into Prince’s death is ongoing, and officials are still awaiting toxicology results, a process which usually takes several weeks.
Do you think Prince died of a prescription drug overdose?
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards]