On Thursday, a law enforcement official informed the Associated Press (AP) that investigators are trying to determine whether superstar singer Prince died from a drug overdose and if a physician was prescribing him the medications in the weeks preceding his death.
U.S. News & World Report reports that investigators looking into the cause of Prince’s death are going back five years, combing through a series of calls made to police from the singer’s Paisley Park estate, as well suspicious activities that went on, such as tripped alarms and trespassers. At least four calls over the time span were medical calls, including the latest call on April 21, when Prince was found unresponsive in his home. He was pronounced dead later that day.
Investigators are not only trying to figure out if Prince’s death was the result of an overdose, but also which, if any, doctors prescribed him drugs in the recent weeks prior to his death, and whether any physicians were on the plane with him when it made an emergency landing in Illinois on April 15. Once the plane landed, Prince was rushed to the hospital. Less than a week later, the musician was pronounced dead.
The law enforcement official, who was briefed on the case prior to making a public statement, also said that investigators are in the process of determining what type of drugs were in Prince’s estate and on the plane. A search warrant for the “Purple Rain” singer’s estate was issued on Thursday, but the courts stated the results will be sealed for now, since revealing the details could hinder the investigation.
Although unproven, sources told TMZ that a physician prescribed the opioid painkiller Percocet to Prince in 2009, after he began having hip problems. In 2010, he reportedly had corrective hip surgery, but he was allegedly already addicted to the powerful drug.
Spokespeople for the singer said that he was rushed to an emergency room after the plane landed because he had the flu, but TMZ indicated that the Moline Fire Dept. said that Prince was rushed in after a drug overdose, and given a “save shot.”
Yet, other sources, who were reportedly around Prince frequently during the last few years of his life, said that he was a “health nut,” and they never saw any signs of drug abuse.
On Wednesday, another law enforcement official told CNN that an opioid medication was found on Prince and in his home when he died. Although it’s still early in the investigation, authorities haven’t found any proof that Prince had a valid prescription for the medication. However, officials are stressing that the investigation is still in its beginnings, and they don’t have enough information yet to confirm whether the musician had a valid prescription or not.
According to CNN‘s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, many people are prescribed Percocet and handle it fine, but there is always the risk of addiction since it’s such a strong drug. In 2014, around 2 million people in the U.S. were addicted to opioid medications.
“There are plenty of people out there who get legitimate pain pills for legitimate pain concerns and they do well. They come off of them with no problem, but there’s a certain percentage of people who do become addicted to these, meaning they have to keep taking them.”
Meanwhile, investigators are awaiting Prince’s official toxicology tests, which could take weeks. Part of the toxicology process entails not only collecting tissues samples to be sent off for lab testing, but also reaching out to loved ones and doctors to determine his lifestyle and medical history. The lab results are then compared to life habits and medical history.
Per Kevin Lothridge, the CEO of the National Forensic Science Technology Center, toxicology tests must go through a complicated process before results are released.
“The technology is a lot faster than it used to be, but there has to be quality assurance in the lab to corroborate what you may have found in the field.”
Prince was 57 years old when he passed away. His family held a private funeral for him on Saturday.
[Photo by Chris Graythen/Stringer/Getty Images]