Even Prince's close friends didn't know that he was addicted to opioids but that's not what killed him. What killed him was supposed to be a common painkiller.
It is unfortunate when a legendary artist perishes because of their mental health issues or because of something they have no control over. Singer Prince, who died at the age of 57, was an icon but he too suffered from addictions, which he was trying to fight. He was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio compound on April 21, 2016, as per USA Today.
His autopsy report found that he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid significantly more powerful than heroin. Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said in 2018 that the singer thought he was taking a common painkiller, Vicodin. However, he was given counterfeit Vicodin laced with fentanyl.
"Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him," Metz said, as per ABC News.
The attorney added that it's a mystery how the U Got The Look singer attained those pills. Unfortunately, the photos and videos from inside of Paisley Park on the day his body was found haven't been helpful in solving this mystery.
Prince reportedly had so much of the drug in his body that it would have been fatal for anyone, regardless of their size or drug tolerance, The Star Tribune cited the report.
It has been five years since he passed away and the mystery of his death persists. A photo from April 20, 2016, shows he was at the office of Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg, the local family physician, as per USA Today. The doctor had been referred by his patient, Kirk Johnson, one of Prince's oldest friends and top aide.
The doctor had treated Prince twice in the days leading up to his death. He had also admitted that he prescribed painkillers for Prince’s bodyguard Johnson even though he knew they would be used by the musician, as per The Star Tribune. Schulenberg paid a $30,000 fine and was supposed to be monitored over two years by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The doctor also wrote prescriptions for Percocet in Johnson’s name, knowing that the singer would use them. However, investigators do not believe that Schulenberg had any role in acquiring the fentanyl that led to the singer's death.
Johnson, who is also his estate manager, told investigators that before the singer's death he noticed how he was "looking just a little frail." However, he didn't realize that Prince was addicted to opioids until the singer passed out on a plane a week before he died.
"It started to all making sense, though, just his behavior sometimes and change of mood and I’m like oh this is what, I think this is what’s going on, that’s why I took the initiative and said let’s go to my doctor because you haven’t been to the doctor, let’s check it all out," Johnson said, according to a transcript, a reported by USA Today.
A paramedic told a police detective about the singer's condition when he had passed out. After the second shot of naloxone, the singer "took a large gasp and woke up." The singer told them, "I feel all fuzzy." Prince was then taken to a hospital for monitoring but once there, he refused routine overdose testing. He also didn't reveal what he had taken and only said that "someone gave it to him to relax." He had reportedly taken one or two pills.
A few days after that incident, Johnson took him to Schulenberg. The doctor ran some tests and they came back positive for opioids. His team then got in touch with California-based addiction specialist Howard Kornfeld, whose son, Andrew, went to Minnesota to meet Prince. He was one of the people who found Prince's body on the morning of April 21, 2016.
Andrew told the investigators that the singer was still warm to the touch when found but rigor mortis had begun to set in. Those close to the singer said that he was a private person so they wanted to respect his boundaries. Johnson added, "That’s what (angers me) cause it’s like, man, how did he hide this so well?"
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by (L)Kevin Winter (R)Donald Miralle