Legendary musician Prince died of an accidental drug overdose at age 57. The talented, innovative music icon inspired millions of fans around the world. His untimely death is, tragically, one of many deaths caused by opioid addiction.
A toxicology report from Prince’s autopsy revealed he had an extremely high concentration of fentanyl in his body when he died. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin. Prince was prescribed fentanyl patches by his doctors to help him cope with chronic pain. Although fentanyl is effective at treating pain, the prescription painkiller is also incredibly dangerous and addictive.
Accidental overdoses from fentanyl have become an epidemic. The drug is especially lethal because the same dose that might be beneficial for one person could be deadly for another. Users who take opioids over an extended period, including chronic pain patients like Prince, build up a tolerance to the drug. This tolerance makes it frighteningly easy to take an accidental, often fatal, overdose.
Prince was also attempting to overcome his opioid addiction at the time of his death. The day before he died, a doctor treated him for fatigue and anemia resulting from apparent opioid withdrawal. Opioid withdrawal causes severe, often debilitating symptoms including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Opioid withdrawal symptoms cause some users to relapse. When a relapse occurs, an accidental overdose is more likely because an individual might have a lower tolerance for the drug than he had previously; a formerly safe dose might be lethal.
Photo source: Prince! by Scott Penner