It's now been a month since Prince's tragically young passing, and his death was particularly troubling because he was seemingly in such stellar health. A devout Jehovah's Witness, he didn't drink, didn't smoke and had the body of a Greyhound race dog.
So it was hard to believe initial reports that he had died from a drug overdose, but today the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office released their autopsy report and confirmed that Prince Nelson Rogers did indeed die from an accidental opioid overdose.
Looking closer at the report, I noticed that the exact cause of death was listed as "self administered fentanyl," a drug I'd vaguely heard of but didn't recognize. I at first had assumed he had become addicted to Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Percocet or any of the drugs at the source of America's current opiate epidemic, but looking into fentanyl, it's actually far stronger. An extremely powerful painkiller often used in active combat situations and to treat extreme cancer pain, fentanyl has been called, "80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and roughly 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade (100% pure) heroin."
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While not unheard of in the streets, it's essentially a drug that can only be obtained consistently with connections to the medical community, which in my mind places Prince's death next to Michael Jackson's (who died from propofol, another hospital grade anesthetic typically used for surgeries). Like Jackson, I have to assume that some enabler, likely a medical professional, was regularly supplying Prince with fentanyl, which adds an additional layer to his death.
Prince's passing is now not just a tragic loss for the music world, but a cautionary tale about the fatal dangers that essentially unlimited fame and money can bring. And at a time when The Weeknd and Future are making millions from music that puts on display the kind of drug use that Prince kept hidden until his death, it's worth thinking again about just how comfortable we are partying to music about the same drugs that are stealing away our heroes.