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Prince, the screen name of Prince Rogers Nelson, is among the celebrity casualties of 2016. Described as one of the most influential artists of all time and an icon of the rock and roll era, his music is described as innovative and defined the music scene of the 80s. He released his debut in 1978 at the age of 18. The following year, his album Prince hit platinum, and his subsequent works continued to meet wild success. His best-selling album Purple Rain is considered among the greatest albums in music history, number two only behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Prince continued to create successful albums and perform concerts, and released his last album Hit n Run Phase Two in 2015.
Prince’s death sent a shock wave throughout the music industry. After reports of influenza and loss of consciousness on his private jet, on April 21, 2016, Prince was found unconscious in his home by emergency responders and, after attempts to revive him, pronounced dead. No signs of foul play or suicide were found. A press release from a medical examiner’s office stated that Prince died of an accidental overdose of the drug fentanyl. He was 57 years old.
Prince’s death joined the many other mourned celebrity deaths in 2016, including Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, David Bowie, Paul Kantner, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Fidel Castro.
Prince died at an age where the body should still be relatively healthy. Most people in their 50s find their senses and mentality still intact, their bones and organs still in good condition, their memory sharp, and their lives active.
We will examine some details about Prince’s early life, overall health, the factors that may have contributed to his untimely demise, and his cause of death. While there are a number of rumors floating around, like Prince died in plane crash, this is not the case. Did Prince die? Yes, and ultimately the drug fentanyl is what killed him.
Prince’s early life
Prince, or Prince Rogers Nelson, was born on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was born to John Lewis Nelson and Mattie Della. His parents were talented singers and performers themselves. John Nelson was a pianist and renowned songwriter while Mattie Della was a jazz singer. Prince has a sister, Tika Evene, who is also a singer.
In an article in People magazine, Prince described his early struggle against epilepsy: “I used to have seizures when I was young. My mother and father didn’t know what to do or how to handle it but they did the best they could with what little they had.”
Prince has a childhood that can certainly be described as troubled. His parents divorced and separated by the time he was 10 years old. He struggled with poverty and was bullied in school, mainly due to having seizures. Prince told a magazine that poverty caused him to develop anger issues. “We used to go to McDonald’s; I didn’t have any money, so I’d just stand outside and smell stuff. Poverty makes people angry, brings out their worst side. I was very bitter when I was young. I was insecure and I’d attack anybody.” Prince later recalled, “From that point, I’ve been having to deal with a lot of things, getting teased in school. And early in my career I tried to compensate by being as flashy and as noisy as I could.”
With his natural talent in music and performing, Prince joined the band Grand Central, and later, 94 East, at the young age of 14. At the age 18, Prince signed a contract with Warner Brothers, becoming its youngest talent.
According to Prince himself, he had epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures, or epilepsy, is a longstanding disorder where the person experiences frequent fits of seizures. The causes of epilepsy, in most cases, is not known. Anti-epileptic drugs are given to reduce the incidence of seizures; most of these medicines should be taken on a regular basis whether seizures are present or not. In most patients, the frequency of seizures reduces as they become older, and seizures often go away completely by the time the person reaches adulthood. Seizures can also lead to many psychological issues, such as low self-esteem and insomnia.
Prince did not seem physically or emotionally healthy during his childhood years. However, his background served as inspiration for him to create his unique sound.
Prince’s health throughout his adult years
It seems that Prince did not experience further epileptic seizures by the time he reached adulthood through to the last decades of his life. However, he still had other health troubles.
For example, in an interview with the tabloid Radar, his ex-wife Mayte Garcia stated that Prince has a hidden drug and alcohol addiction, which became worse when their newborn son Amir died of a rare congenital disease at just two days old. When Garcia was prescribed the strong painkiller Vicodin (acetaminophen and hydrocodone) to treat pain caused by recent caesarean section, she recalled noticing that some of her pills were disappearing. Alcohol misuse and abuse was also reported by Garcia.
Prince had double hip replacement operation, which, according to an article in Mirror magazine, was caused by damage to the hips due to years of dancing on stage in high-heeled footwear. A hip replacement is a surgical operation to replace the worn-out hip joint, which is caused by things like osteoporosis, bone tumors, or physical injuries. The specific cause of hip fracture in Prince’s case is not known.
Details about Prince’s death
Despite statements by his family and staff that he was clean, there is persistent evidence that Prince struggled with drug addiction throughout his life. His dabbling with drugs may have contributed to his death.
On April 7, 2016, Prince was seen by Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg, a family medicine specialist in Excelsior, Minnesota. According to a report by TMZ, Prince was allegedly addicted to Percocet and sought treatment from Dr. Schulenberg.
Prince performed shows days before his death, but he was not in good health. After postponing two performances at Fox Theatre in Atlanta, citing influenza, Prince rescheduled and performed on April 14; each show lasted 80 minutes.
Early the next morning, during a flight on his private jet back to Minneapolis, Prince became unresponsive, so the plane made an emergency landing at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois. According to a statement by his publicist at the time, Prince was “fighting the flu.” He spent only a few hours at the hospital before flying back to Minneapolis. According to reports, Prince only received the drug Narcan (naloxone), which is used to block the effect of opioid drugs and reverse its effects. It is then easy to assume that Prince lost consciousness due to an overdose of a certain opioid drug.
The next day seemed good for Prince, as he was spotted and filmed by some of his neighbors riding a bike around his property. That evening, Prince shopped at a store and made a surprise appearance at a dance party at his Paisley Park recording complex. On April 19, he attended a performance at Dakota Jazz Club. The next day, April 20, Prince saw Dr. Schulenburg again and received unspecified medications.
According to the timeline provided by CBS Minnesota, Prince’s representatives sought treatment from the addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld. According to an article in People, the purpose was to have an emergency addiction treatment plan for Prince. Dr. Kornfeld then sent his pre-med son Andrew from California to the Twin Cities to talk about addiction to prescription painkillers. Andrew brought buprenorphine, which is used to treat opiate addiction.
When did Prince die?
On April 21 at 9:45 am, home staffers found Prince unconscious and unresponsive in the home elevator. Andrew Kornfeld stated he arrived at 9:30 am and staff stated Prince was not available. The staff and Andrew looked for Prince, and they found him unconscious in the elevator. It was Andrew who called 911 and reported the emergency. Paramedics arrived and tried to revive Prince but failed, eventually pronouncing him dead at about 10:07 am. One of the paramedics stated that Prince has been dead for about six hours. Dr. Schulenberg arrived when the paramedics were already on the scene, carrying test results and prescriptions. An initial investigation found no evidence of foul play or suicide.
On April 22, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office released Prince’s body after performing an autopsy. Prince was cremated the next day.
What did Prince die from?
The preliminary results of the autopsy and investigation of Prince’s estate were released on April 27, 2016. Authorities announced they found nearly two dozen pills in mislabeled bottles in Prince’s possession. The bottles were labeled to contain pills of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, but many of the pills were found to contain fentanyl, a very powerful painkiller. Tests showed Prince had fentanyl in his system as well, according to a report in Vanity Fair.
On May 1, Prince’s personal chef disproved allegations of drug addiction in a statement, stating that although Prince was suffering from frequent sore throats and stomach problems in his final months, he never seemed to be under the influence of drugs.
On June 2, full findings of the autopsy were released and cited Prince died from an accidental dose of the drug fentanyl. It also cited that Prince was severely underweight, weighing only 112 pounds at the time of his death.
A further investigation supported that Prince did not have an addiction to fentanyl, as it did not show up in his system when he sought treatment for Percocet addiction.
What is fentanyl and how does it kill?
Fentanyl is an opioid drug used as an anesthetic or painkiller. It is often prescribed by doctors along with benzodiazepine drugs to induce sleep before having procedures such as endoscopy or surgery in the mouth. It is also given to patients with cancer pain. Fentanyl is a very powerful painkiller, and it is described as 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. In the hospital, fentanyl is given in injection form for fast-acting effect. You can only get fentanyl from a doctor.
Fentanyl works in the central nervous system, blocking impulses that result in the sensation of pain. In the process, it also reduces vital functions such as control of body temperature, consciousness, and respiration.
Fentanyl is popular as a drug because it is very addictive. Because of its high potential for abuse, it is a schedule II drug, along with drugs such as oxycodone, amphetamine, hydrocodone, codeine, and hydromorphone. Prescriptions of drugs like fentanyl are often listed and tracked in a state-wide registry. Using fentanyl without a doctor’s supervision can cause serious consequences, both to yourself and legally. You can be charged with possession without prescription, or if you sold it through other means.
Most people who find fentanyl through illegal means receive it in the form of pills or sublingual patches that are placed between the teeth and cheek. Like many opioid drugs, being under the influence of fentanyl causes drowsiness and lethargy. Fentanyl causes a feeling of euphoria, which leads people to abuse the drug. Some people can become addicted to fentanyl while using it for medical reasons, like having patches or pills at home to reduce pain.
Fentanyl also increasingly affects tolerance, so users often take more of the drug over time to achieve the same effects. A higher tolerance makes addiction worse over time.
Fentanyl addiction causes side effects, which can be serious. Some include dizziness, extreme drowsiness, headaches, and shortness of breath. Dangerous side effects include weakness, swelling of the hands or feet, difficulty breathing, and overdose.
Overdose can lead to death. Fentanyl can cause breathing to depress so low that the person might suffocate. Since fentanyl causes the body temperature to become uncontrollably high, the person’s core temperature can become so high that it results in shock and loss of consciousness. An overdose of fentanyl often leads to seizures, coma, and very shallow breathing, respiratory arrest, and death.
In the case of Prince, according to the medical report, he may have self-administered fentanyl and experienced an overdose that caused his death. There is no supporting evidence that Prince abused fentanyl for a long period of time, as levels in his blood are consistent with short-term use. He, however, was abusing Percocet that contains hydrocone, an opioid drug.
In Prince’s case, fentanyl was found in counterfeit bottles labeled to have acetaminophen/hydrocodone. Prince could have obtained the drugs illegally, as records show he had no prescription records in the state of Minnesota in the past 12 months.
What to do in case of fentanyl overdose
Avoid the use of fentanyl, except when prescribed by a doctor for a health condition. Consider the conditions where fentanyl is often used: surgery, massive pain, cancer-related pain, and invasive medical procedures. It is so dangerous that only doctors can give fentanyl injections. Even use of oral fentanyl for medical purposes is linked to sudden death. Note that oral forms of fentanyl have already caused death in users that are considered ‘opioid-naive’ or have not used significant quantities of opioids before.
You should also note the presence of fentanyl in counterfeit drugs or psychoactive substances sold on the internet. Fentanyl is so strong and potent that drug dealers often use it to add potency to their wares.
Always remember that symptoms of fentanyl overdose include nausea, small pinpoint pupils, lack of movement, gurgling or snoring sounds, loss of consciousness, and the person may not be breathing, or have very weak or shallow breathing.
If you suspect someone has overdosed on fentanyl or is experiencing a combination of any of the above symptoms, consider it an emergency and call 911 immediately. Then, check for airway blockage and assess breathing. Place the person in a recovery position: on their side with the above leg bent, so any vomit will go out of the mouth. If you are trained in first aid, give rescue breathing. Do not try to give any food or liquid to the person as this may cause choking.
The drug naloxone reverses effects of opioids, including fentanyl, and it can be given to a person who overdosed. Naloxone is available in injection form. If there is naloxone nearby, administer it, as it may save a life. Naloxone is often packaged in pre-filled auto-injectors, or in nasal sprays.
To administer naloxone nasal spray, simply remove the cap, insert the tip into a nostril, and spray. To give naloxone injections, pull out the auto-injector from the outer case and stop for a while to make sure you are ready to give the injection. If you are ready, pull off the red safety guard, taking care not to touch the black end. Locate the patient’s outer thigh, and press the black base of the device firmly and hold in place for 5 seconds; you can place the device through clothing. You should hear a light click and hiss sound, signifying that the device worked correctly.
Deaths from opioid overdose are not uncommon. There are tens of thousands of opioid deaths in the US per year. It claims lives, including famous stars such as Prince.