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Pills found in Prince's Paisley Park labeled as hydrocodone actually contained fentanyl—the drug that killed the musician—a source close to the investigation told the Minneapolis Star Tribune (opens in new tab). Prince did not have a prescription for fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine, and investigators believe he might have taken the pills not knowing they contained the drug.
This would mean that the manufacturer mislabeled the pills or they were illegally manufactured and illegally obtained. Autopsy results showed that Prince died of an accidental, self-administered overdose of fentanyl, and the singer had enough of the drug in his system to kill anyone, regardless of size.
While it's still unclear what happened in Prince's final hours, the Star Tribune reports that "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.
Prince was found dead at the age of 57 (opens in new tab) inside an elevator of his Paisley Park compound on April 21. Since then, investigators have worked to figure out what exactly happened that night. In the months that followed, more information has revealed the tragic final days of Prince's life. A day before he died, Prince's representatives had called a leading opioid addiction treatment doctor in California because the artist "was dealing with a grave medical emergency." The doctor's son was sent immediately to Minnesota on a "lifesaving mission." But he arrived too late, and was among the people who found Prince dead (opens in new tab).
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.
According to the Star Tribune, police are still working through the case with federal investigators, and a DEA spokesman told the paper that their work will be "ongoing and will be thorough."
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Matt Miller is a Brooklyn-based culture/lifestyle writer and music critic whose work has appeared in Esquire, Forbes, The Denver Post, and documentaries.
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