According to the Associated Press, a law enforcement spokesperson has now confirmed that the cause of Prince‘s death was an opioid overdose. He was found unresponsive Thursday April 21 at his estate in the Minneapolis area. The spokesperson, who is closely connected to the investigation, spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to release information to the media.
Those findings confirm recent suspicions that opioids were to blame, or at least were a contributing factor. Prince’s death occurred less than a week after his private aircraft made an emergency landing in Moline Illinois as he was returning from a concert in Atlanta. Various sources reported that he was found unresponsive on board the plane and was given Narcan by first responders. Narcan is an antidote which is commonly used when opioid overdose is suspected.
The Carver County Sheriff’s Office, the US Attorney’s Office in Minnesota and the Drug Enforcement Administration are overseeing the death investigation, in which two doctors’ names have surfaced. Family practicioner Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg treated Prince two times in the weeks before his death; he told investigators he prescribed medications, which were not identified in a search warrant issued for the Minnesota hospital in which Schulenberg was employed at the time.
The warrant indicates that Schulenberg saw the singer April 07 and April 20. The doctor’s attorney has declined comment.
California addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld was contacted April 20 by Prince’s associates and asked to help. Kornfeld put his son Andrew on a flight that evening; Andrew was among the first to find Prince’s body the following morning, according to Kornfeld’s attorney William Mauzy.
Andrew, who is not a doctor, was carrying buprenorphine, which is a medication used to treat opioid addiction, according to Mauzy. He indicated that Andrew intended to supply the medication to a Minnesota doctor who had made room in his schedule to see Prince April 21. Mauzy is not identifying that doctor. According to the AP report, Dr. Schulenberg is not authorized to prescribe buprenorphine.
Prince passed away a couple of weeks after he cancelled his Atlanta concerts, saying he wasn’t feeling well. He played two makeup shows there April 14, just prior to the emergency landing in Moline. His schedule included two shows in St. Lous, but those were cancelled just before he died.
Prince had a reputation as a non-imbiber or partaker; friends reported that they never saw any sign that he had a substance abuse problem. However, his longtime friend and cohort Sheila E. told AP that Prince had physical problems and experienced pain related to the rigors of performing, particularly hip and knee issues.