Though the toxicology report has yet to be completed in the untimely death of Prince two weeks ago, a new source is confirming that the singer did in fact have a serious opioid addiction at the time of his death, as has been rumored and reported by TMZ and others. Northern California-based addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld, known to be a national authority in the treatment of opioid addiction, was contacted by Prince's team just one day before his death on April 21, and was scheduled to fly to Minnesota on April 22, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting. Kornfeld's son, Andrew Kornfeld, who works with him at Recovery Without Walls in Mill Valley, CA, had actually hopped on a redeye flight to Minneapolis the night of the 20th, and arrived at Paisley Park in Chanhassen the morning Prince was found dead in an elevator. And while staff at the house was apparently too distraught, Andrew Kornfeld was the one who called 911.
As KQED explains, the elder Kornfeld's practice has been widely known for the use of buprenorphine as a replacement drug for those addicted to other opiates, because it is less dangerous and less possible to result in overdose. Unlike OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, buprenorphine doesn't bring the same euphoria to patients and can apparently help wean them off the more dangerous drug they're addicted to.
Reportedly, Andrew Kornfeld, who's listed as a practice consultant on the treatment center's website but not a doctor, arrived at Prince's compound with a small amount of buprenorphine and was going to begin creating a treatment plan, however he never had the chance to administer any of the drug.
Per the Star Tribune, via the Kornfelds' attorney William Mauzy:
“The plan was to quickly evaluate his health and devise a treatment plan,” Mauzy said, speaking on behalf of the Kornfelds. “ The doctor was planning on a lifesaving mission.”
... When Andrew Kornfeld arrived at Paisley Park at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Prince’s representatives could not find him, Mauzy said. Andrew Kornfeld was one of three people at Paisley Park when the musician’s body was found in an elevator a few minutes later and it was Andrew Kornfeld who called 911.
Mauzy said that Andrew Kornfeld told him that the others “screamed” when they found Prince and “were in too much shock” to call 911.
Unfamiliar with Paisley Park, Andrew Kornfeld simply told the dispatcher, “We’re at Prince’s house.”
Asked again to give an address, he said simply: “The people are just distraught. We’re in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we are at the home of Prince.”
As the AP is reporting, a log of the 911 call confirms that the caller did not know the location of the house, saying it was in Minneapolis and not the suburb of Chanhassen.
The Kornfelds have apparently hired the Minneapolis-based Mauzy to represent them because there is an ongoing criminal investigation by authorities, however they have said from the outset that foul play was not suspected.
Dr. Kornfeld says he instructed Prince's team to get a local doctor to assess him as soon as they contacted him on April 20, and it was hoped that Prince would fly to California for longer-term treatment.
Kornfeld was called upon specifically because of his noted use of buprenorphine, the main ingredient in Suboxone, which is thus far uncommon in addiction treatment in the U.S., though it's been shown to be effective. As the Star Tribune explains, "The drug has been underutilized, in part, because many doctors haven’t completed the federal training that is necessary to prescribe it."
The complete toxicology report on Prince is still expected in the coming days or weeks.
Update: The New York Times elaborates on the story, discussing how he had been prescribed painkillers over a decade ago for a hip problem, for which he had surgery in the mid-2000s, followed by more pain medication.
Prince’s penchant for privacy may help explain how he kept his secret from so many. At the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall near here, where Prince was a worshiper, congregants scoffed at the first reports that Prince may have been abusing painkillers.
And rarely did he let the musicians who toured with him know how much his hips actually hurt from decades of high-voltage performances, jumping onstage in platform heels. They would only notice small things, like that he stopped doing splits.