Bradley K. Sperman
2017-02-19 00:07:19 UTC
could have survived it.
Pills marked as hydrocodone that were seized from Paisley Park
after Princes overdose death actually contained fentanyl, the
powerful opioid that killed him, according to a source with
knowledge of the investigation.
The musician, who weighed only 112 pounds at the time of his
death April 21, had so much of the drug in his system, autopsy
results later showed, that it would have killed anyone,
regardless of size, the source said.
Prince did not possess a prescription for fentanyl, a synthetic
opioid that has been described as 100 times more powerful than
morphine, the source said.
Despite the finding, investigators still arent certain how the
57-year-old megastar ingested the fentanyl. However, they are
leaning toward the theory that he took the pills not knowing
they contained the drug.
An autopsy report released in June by the Midwest Medical
Examiners Office said Prince died from an accidental, self-
administered overdose of fentanyl. But it did not indicate how
he obtained the painkiller, nor did it list any other cause of
death or significant condition.
Four months after Princes death, investigators are still
wrestling with a host of questions in hopes of solving the
mystery of how Prince got the drug and what happened in his
final hours. But even without definitive answers, it seems more
and more likely that Prince became a casualty of what is being
called a new national crisis of deadly counterfeit pills.
Illicit fentanyl has traditionally been mixed with or sold as
heroin as was the case in a series of overdose deaths in north-
central Minnesota and North Dakota earlier this year. But the
Drug Enforcement Administration said drug traffickers have since
expanded the illicit fentanyl market by producing counterfeit
pills that contain the opioid.
And while the 2006 raid of a single Mexican drug lab halted an
earlier surge in fentanyl-linked overdose deaths, authorities
say China-sourced fentanyl and precursor chemicals are now being
sold to criminals running clandestine pill-press operations
across North America.
A recent flood of wholesale amounts of counterfeit pills that
contain fentanyl prompted the DEA last month to issue a report
warning of a rise in overdoses, deaths and opiate-dependent
individuals. The DEA said it tested eight times as much
fentanyl last year as it did during the 2006 crisis.
This is becoming a trend, according to the DEAs report, not
a series of isolated incidents.
The Prince death investigation is occurring at the same time the
U.S. attorneys office in Minnesota is stepping up efforts to
crack down on opioid abuse. In April, a Brooklyn Park man became
the first to be indicted federally on charges of distributing
heroin that later killed someone. Later that month, the office
and the DEA hosted a prescription drug take-back event in which
they discarded 5,000 pounds of unwanted medications.
Fentanyl also will be among the discussion topics at a two-day
national symposium next month in Minneapolis attended by law
enforcement and public health officials from more than 40 states
A DEA spokesman said last week that investigators working the
Prince case havent assigned a time limit on their work,
adding that it will be ongoing and will be thorough.
Jason Kamerud, chief deputy of the Carver County Sheriffs
Office, said investigators there are actively working with
federal investigators and the U.S. attorneys office on the
case. At present, however, no one in Carver County is dedicated
to the investigation full time.
My detectives work the case when theres work to be done, then
theyre on to their other open cases, Kamerud said in an e-
mail. He declined to comment on details of the case.
Prince was found dead in an elevator at his Paisley Park
compound in Chanhassen the morning of April 21, a day before he
was to meet with a California doctor who specializes in opioid
addiction. Two members of his inner circle found his body about
Prince was wearing a black shirt and pants both were on
backward and his socks were inside-out, according to a source
familiar with the case. A responding paramedic said Prince
appeared to have been dead for at least six hours before his
body was found.
Sources with knowledge of the investigation have said that
autopsy results also revealed the presence of lidocaine,
alprazolam and Percocet.
Prince died less than a week after an opioid overdose forced his
private plane to make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill.,
where paramedics scrambled to revive him on the tarmac. He
recovered after two shots of naloxone, an overdose antidote
increasingly being used and often referred to by its brand name
Narcan, a source said.