Prince died of an opioid overdose, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Thursday.
The examiner’s office posted the results of its invesigtation into Prince’s death online.
The cause of death is listed as “self-administered fentanyl.” The drug is a type of opioid, a painkiller.
The Associated Press earlier reported that a law-enforcement official said tests showed Prince died from the opioid.
The musician was found dead in his home in Minnesota on April 21, at the age of 57.
It was previously reported that the drug was found in Prince’s system as well as on him.
Prince Rogers Nelson investigation results attached pic.twitter.com/CMt6lQSGxJ
— Midwest Medical Exam (@MidwestMedExam) June 2, 2016
Both heroin and opioid painkillers belong to a larger class of drugs known as opioids. It includes legal, lab-produced drugs like oxycodone, fentanyl, and morphine, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.
Research suggests the drugs are widely overprescribed, yet deadly: Between 2013 and 2014, overdose deaths from opioid painkillers and heroin jumped 14%, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released in December 2015.
The most commonly prescribed opioid painkillers include drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Those were involved in more overdose deaths than any other type of the drug, the CDC report found.
How opioids affect the brain
Prescription painkillers act on the same brain systems that are affected by heroin and morphine. These brain systems function as a sort of lock-and-key mechanism that activate our sense of pleasure and reward. We all have a series of naturally produced keys and keyholes that normally fit together to switch on this reward system – it’s the reason we feel good when we eat a good meal or have sex, for example. But opioids mimic the natural keys in our brain. When they click in, we feel an overwhelming sense of euphoria.
It was complete satisfaction … The physical sensation was like being hit hard with something infinitely soft, warm, comforting, enveloping. Every molecule of my body felt nurtured. I was home.
The link between heroin and painkillers is strong: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, close to half of young people surveyed in three recent studies who’d injected heroin said they’d abused prescription painkillers before they started using heroin. A report released in July found that people who’d abused opioid painkillers were 40 times as likely to abuse heroin compared with people who had never abused them.
So, while the drugs can be immensely helpful at providing some relief to people in severe, unrelenting physical discomfort from an injury or medical condition, it’s not hard to see why they can also be incredibly dangerous, especially in people who may be vulnerable to addiction.
And even in people who are not at risk of addiction, abusing the drugs can have deadly consequences: Overdosing on heroin can slow and even stop breathing, leading to brain damage or coma.
*This post has been updated.