When Prince's autopsy concluded that the artist accidentally overdosed on the powerful painkiller fentanyl, questions were raised as to how he got his hands on a drug 50 times more potent than heroin that is typically only administered in hospitals. We now know the answer may be "accidentally." The Associated Press reports that at least one pill found in the singer's home was falsely labeled, and in fact contained the dangerous drug.
Fentanyl has been in the news a lot recently, mainly because of its prevalence in counterfeit drugs. People taking what they think are familiar painkillers like Vicodin or anti-anxiety meds like Xanax are in fact ingesting illegally manufactured pills containing the powerful narcotic. Prince may have been merely the most famous in a long line of victims to accidentally overdose on such a mislabeled drug.
An official investigating the death told the AP that one pill found in Prince's home was stamped "Watson 385," signifying a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, commonly known as Vicodin. In fact, the pill contained fentanyl. A bottle of aspirin was also discovered that had 60 counterfeit tabs — amounts of fentanyl, lidocaine and U-47700 (a synthetic painkiller eight times stronger than morphine) were all discovered within the mislabeled pills.
According to the Star Tribune, Prince did not have a prescription for fentanyl, and the levels found in his blood were enough to kill anyone. Prince was found dead on April 21 — just one day before he was scheduled to meet with an opioid addiction specialist.
It's believed that Prince had begun abusing prescription painkillers as far back as 2008 after having surgery to correct a hip injury.
The CDC last year reported a nationwide increase in fentanyl seizures — there were 4585 in 2014 alone.