Did Prince Die From An Overdose of Legal Prescription Opioids?

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When a famous person dies mysteriously and prematurely these days, we are instantly led to consider their drug use as cause of death.

Prince, the multitalented musician and entertainer, who was found dead at his estate outside Minneapolis last week, is a prime candidate for such speculation. We need to withhold judgment until toxicology and other autopsy data are made public, of course. But current reports suggesting that drugs played a major role in his death, and how they did so, speak to a much wider point: Americans’ lack of skill at drug use.

It is unusual for a 57-year old person to die instantly, from no visible cause. Sometimes heart attacks act this way. But Prince didn’t appear to suffer a heart attack, he wasn’t known to suffer from heart disease, and he didn’t display such risk factors as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.

But the outward signs of his death are consistent—not with single-drug overdose, a rare malady—but drug poisoning, or the combined effects of various narcotic and depressant drugs. (The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office finds multiple drug use present in 97% of drug-related deaths.)

Of course, Prince was famous for his “clean” lifestyle. In addition to not smoking and not drinking, he was known as being vehemently “anti-drug,” eschewing marijuana, cocaine and other street drugs.

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