By Jazz Monroe.
On April 21 of last year, Prince was found dead in an elevator shaft at his Paisley Park mansion in Chanhassen, Minnesota. A coroner later ruled he had died hours earlier of an overdose on the powerful painkiller fentanyl. But the circumstances that lead to the overdose remain shrouded in mystery, as the New York Times reports in a new article. Vital questions appear unanswered by investigators, whose inquiry was active as recently as February, according to the Times. Those questions include how Prince obtained the fatal fentanyl, and who, if anyone, should be held responsible for his death. Investigations involving Prince’s pharmacy records, doctors, and friends have apparently turned up little information; the Times suggests this indicates the fentanyl came from the black market.
The Times piece highlights that fentanyl, which can be 50 times stronger than heroin, had long been scarce on the black market, but returned in significant quantities last year, smuggled from China and Mexico. Several regulatory measures have been approved since Prince’s death, the Times reports. They include new D.E.A. limits on opioid manufacturing, and approval for two drugs that treat opioid dependence. Four types of fentanyl have also been banned in China.
The Times reports that two doctors who “became figures in the drama,” Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg, who treated Prince before his death, and Dr. Howard Kornfeld, who had been called to help Prince fight his addiction, both cooperated with investigators, but neither seems to be of “continuing interest to investigators.”
Dr. Chris Johnson, chairman of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Opioid Prescribing Work Group, told the Times, “Prince’s death has raised the profile of the opioid crisis even further. ... Even though Prince’s final dose and exit was illicit, the reason he needed it was because of the years of prescriptions that got him on that path.”
Read the full New York Times report here.
This story originally appeared on Pitchfork.
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