Two years ago, the world was shocked by the unexpected death of one of the music industry’s most iconic stars. Now Prince’s toxicology report, recently acquired by the Associated Press, showed that the star had “exceedingly high” levels of fentanyl present in his blood. Experts agree that the results leave “no doubt” that a fentanyl overdose caused the singer-songwriter’s death, an acknowledgement that has taken on more seriousness as the number of celebrity overdose deaths has grown.
The Facts Behind The Report
After the legendary artist was found unconscious in an elevator in his Paisley Park estate in April 2016, all preliminary reports speculated that an accidental fentanyl overdose was the cause of death. This latest report only confirms what was already known about the star’s condition. “The amount in [Prince’s] blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” said Dr Lewis Nelson, an emergency medicine professor at Rutgers.
Even when compared to other opioid overdoses, Prince had unusually high levels of fentanyl in his body. According to the Associated Press, the concentration of fentanyl in his blood was 67.8 micrograms per liter, and the level of fentanyl in his liver was 450 micrograms per kilogram. Liver concentrations above 69 micrograms per kilogram often build up to a fatal toxicity. Both numbers suggest that Prince consumed the drug orally, a speculation corroborated by the fact that investigators found many bottles containing fentanyl-laced pills around the entertainer’s home.
Concern Over Celebrity Overdose Deaths Climbs
A recent spate of celebrity overdose deaths has troubled the public and drawn attention to the nation’s rapidly growing opioid epidemic. The music and film industries are reeling from the death of popular rapper Lil Peep from overdose, reports that Tom Petty’s death was caused by an accidental overdose, and stories about beloved star Philip Seymour Hoffman’s struggle with opioid addiction.
Although Hoffman likely overdosed on pure heroin, both Petty and Lil Peep had fentanyl in their systems when they died. Experts agree that there is no “lethal dose” of fentanyl, but the drug is one of the most deadly substances traded in the international opiate market. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid originally developed for anesthetic use, is 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin and has caused a dramatic uptick in drug overdoses across the country.
Factors such as size, gender, and prior opioid use can all affect how much of this powerful drug is necessary for an overdose. An amount fatal for one person might not affect another in the same way. In addition, many people who take prescribed opioids can build up a tolerance to the drugs over time, although a prescription for pain medication does not guarantee that these volatile drugs will be used safely or responsibly.
Celebrity overdose deaths like this one remind us that no one is immune from the opioid crisis, not even the rich and famous. Millions of average American families are also struggling with the effects of this devastating epidemic. If yours in one of them, please reach out for help before it’s too late. The team at CARUS Recovery, a nationally-known drug and alcohol treatment center in Los Angeles, is ready to answer your questions and give you the support you need. Call us at 877-225-7724 to learn more about our programs and services.