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Prince died of opioid overdose, official says

  • Prince performed in May 2013 at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. A law-enforcement official tells The Associated Press that tests show the music superstar died of an opioid overdose. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

CHICAGO » Tests show that Prince died of an opioid overdose, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press today.

The 57-year-old singer was found dead April 21 at his Minneapolis-area estate.

The official, who is close to the investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The findings confirm suspicions that opioids played a role in the musician’s death. After he died, authorities began reviewing whether an overdose was to blame and whether he had been prescribed drugs in the preceding weeks.

Prince’s death came less than a week after his plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois, for medical treatment as he was returning from an Atlanta concert. The AP and other media reported, based on anonymous sources, that the superstar was found unconscious on the plane, and first responders gave him a shot of Narcan, an antidote used in suspected opioid overdoses.

An autopsy was conducted the day after Prince’s body was found. A person with knowledge of the medical examiner’s plan says the results are expected to be released Friday.

That person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to release the information. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office did not return messages seeking comment.

At least two doctors’ names have come up in the death investigation being conducted by the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg, a family practitioner, treated Prince twice in the weeks before his death and told investigators he prescribed medications for the singer. The medications were not specified in a search warrant for the Minnesota hospital that employed Schulenberg at the time.

Schulenberg saw Prince April 7 and April 20 — the day before his death — according to the warrant. Schulenberg’s attorney has declined to comment on the case.

Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a California addiction specialist, was asked by Prince’s representatives on April 20 to help the singer.

Kornfeld sent his son Andrew on a redeye flight that night, and Andrew was among the people who found Prince’s unresponsive body the next morning, according to Kornfeld’s attorney, William Mauzy.

The younger Kornfeld, who is not a doctor, was carrying buprenorphine, a medication that can be used to treat opioid addiction by easing cravings and withdrawal symptoms, Mauzy said, explaining that Andrew Kornfeld intended to give the medication to a Minnesota doctor who had cleared his schedule to see Prince on April 21.

Mauzy has refused to identify that doctor. Schulenberg is not authorized to prescribe buprenorphine.

Prince’s death came two weeks after he canceled concerts in Atlanta, saying he wasn’t feeling well. He played a pair of makeup shows April 14 in that city, and then came the emergency landing in Moline. He was scheduled to perform two shows in St. Louis but canceled them shortly before his death.

The superstar had a reputation for clean living, and some friends said they never saw any sign of drug use. But longtime friend and collaborator Sheila E. has told the AP that Prince had physical issues from performing, citing hip and knee problems that she said came from years of jumping off risers and stage speakers in heels.

Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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  • Paul Stanley of KISS and Eddie Van Halen also had hip issues from performing/jumping during concerts. Time catches up to all of us. RIP Prince.

  • I remember them saying they were trying to do an intervention to force Prince to get treatment for his addiction but they were too late. When you’re hooked on those drugs, it’s almost impossible to get off of them on your own without some outside help.

        • Seems like Prince was one of the cleanest performers around. Can’t fault someone for trying to deal with pain. That is a legitimate use of pain medication. Shame he obviously didn’t get the right one, if it existed. Pain is not fun.

          Point is there was no sin.

      • Prince was being treated by a medical doctor for chronic pain resulting from injuries suffered during performances. There is no evidence that he “turned his back on God.” Prince was known as a devoutly religious man. I hope you don’t expect all Christians to refuse medical treatment and rely only on faith for healing their ailments.

      • Bad music? Some of it was very good. I didn’t listened to him much but was impressed by his athletic ability. How do you know he “turned his back on God”? I sure don’t think he bowed low to drugs. From what I have heard he was not a drug user except for pain. Try jumping up and down and off stages for 50 years and lets see if you have no need for pain medication. He will be missed.

      • he did not turn his back on God. he was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. and calling his music “bad” just shows your prejudice. considering how his music has been selling since his unfortunate demise, there are millions of people who would disagree with you.

    • Why are most “musicians” of that kind of “music” drug addicted and killing themselves? My opinion is that their music is immoral and bad.

      • A person’s music is not the causation of their demise. It’s the demand/need to maintain their creativeness that drives them to seek an advantage. Sadly drugs often temporarily fills the vacuum. The addiction seems to increase once the pinnacle has been attained. Michael was another victim of overdosing.

        • true..apparently Prince had a hole in his soul. He can explain his evil to God now.

        • There are reasons why people use drugs. I find it odd that anyone would question his use of pain medication. Apparently they have never been subject to intense pain. I am not sure he was addicted. Now people in Allies culture uses drugs to become closer to God. I don’t think Prince did this but only to relive pain.

        • Allie, how can you say Prince had a hole in his soul? Just because you are young, and are currently indestructible, this will change when you get older. I admired Prince for his athletic ability that he showed during his shows. One should be careful before calling someone evil. It is not evil to try to get relief from pain.

        • Prince was a very devout Jehovah’s Witness. where do you get “hole in his soul” and “evil”? your prejudice against him is on full display.

      • Sort of the way Niccolò Paganini made a pact with Satan in the early 19th century? If you don’t believe that’s true, try to play Caprice No. 24 sometime.

      • It is NOT a “rich musician” problem of addiction to opioid pain medication like Oxycontin. It was in the news it is a nationwide problem that too many people are prescribed highly addictive opiod pain meds like Oxycontin and then getting into real drug addiction problems.

      • While it is true that many musicians become addicted and end up killing themselves, this does not appear to be the case with Prince who was only taking medication for pain. You try living with excruciating pain and see if you can go without drugs.

        As for his music, what specifically about it makes it immoral? Can you be specific?

        • Stoned nonsense perturbing young listeners minds :Lyric: “Make a chippy wanna say: / ‘Whisper in the belly / 2 me rocking rose.

        • Doesn’t seem so bad:

          It’s late and I’m running out of clever things 2 say
          The kind that will bring a girl like U 2 tears
          There’s only one more glass of this rose
          Let’s throw it on the fire with our past
          And dance the night away until…

          The sun, the moon and stars
          Don’t seem as far as they did yesterday
          The sun, the moon and stars
          In love we R – 4ever, always

          It’s late and I think it’s about time 4 U and me 2 get closer…
          2 get closer than we ever did before (ooh)
          Whenever there’s a tide U can let it ride inside your interior
          Lay back, relax upon my shore (Ooh)
          Ooh-ooh baby, I wanna make love 2 U right here
          One inside the other one – no fear, we’re here until…

          The sun, the moon and stars
          Don’t seem as far as they did yesterday
          The sun, the moon and stars
          In love we R – 4ever, always

          Blow out this candle sunlight
          And come lay down next 2 me
          And paint another rainbow – ooh-wee (ooh-wee)
          Eclipse this light with extasy

          Come on, come on
          Let’s lay down
          I’m walking out of what to say
          That kind of lucky rhyme
          Make a chippy wanna say:
          “Whisper in the belly
          2 me rocking rose”
          Do U like I do
          Come on and dance the night away
          Let’s lay before they get to close the door
          U and me, we got 2 get down on the floor
          Come on, let the tide ride in and off the shore
          I wanna love U once again – and then some more
          Lay your head back I got my hand behind your head
          Like U do the limbo supple on the bouncy bed
          Let’s bouncing on the summer spring
          And when U start 2 fall
          U come like a cold winter due in Montreal

          (Come on baby)
          (The sun, the moon and stars) – hey-hey, hey-hey
          (The tide ride) – hey-hey, hoo-hoo
          (The tide ride – hou)

          The sun, the moon and stars
          Don’t seem as far as they did yesterday
          The sun, the moon and stars
          In love we R – 4ever, always

          The sun, the moon and stars
          Don’t seem as far as they did yesterday
          The sun, the moon and stars
          In love we R – 4ever, always

    • It is hard to get old and to accept that the body is no longer capable of doing the same things. I suspect prince had a hard time accepting this and kept trying to do the same things which resulted in lots of pain.

  • Just because spoiled “superstars” and certain other people are abusing opioids, this doesn’t mean all of us are. A lot of people use opioids as prescribed in a careful and controlled manner and either stop taking them or cut back when possible. So because there are abusers, the government shouldn’t abuse the rest of us with overreaching and unreasonable prohibitions, limitations, etc. And I am not giving drugs to your kids nor do I even want to be around them. You take care of your own kids and stop expecting the government to watch out for your kids and pay all their expenses from child birth to post graduate school.

    • Its sad to see another human being succumb to an overdose of dangerous medications.

      “Pain” is not a diagnosis.

      The blanket approach of treating “pain” with opioids (percocet, oxycontin, vicodin) is an outmoded way of treating patients and has been supplanted by a thoroughly and carefully obtaining the diagnosis, followed by focused rehabilitation and regenerative technology.

      The over prescription and abuse of prescription narcotics can largely be attributed to aggressive marketing by the Pharmaceutical industry (paid the Dr. Off) and an “expert” who lied about his data, claining that opiods are not addictive when prescribed properly. )

      “Painkllers” are not a cure. They only hide the problem. We are all different. Ask your doctor for a specific but proper diagnosis. Ask for different treatment options; any treatment has potential pros and cons. After you have discussed them, then you can make an informed choice. If your doctor can’t provide answers or options, ask to see a specialist.

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