Dr. Lewis S. Nelson, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told the AP that the amount of the substance found in the singer’s blood was “exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches”, calling the opioid misuse a “pretty clear smoking gun”.
Fentanyl is 75 times stronger than heroin, and can cause death at levels as low as three micrograms per litre – and the new report found that Prince’s blood contained the significantly higher concentration of “67.8 micrograms per litre”.
Fentanyl was also present in his liver at 450 micrograms by kilogram – far more than the level normally seen in similar fatalities, 69 micrograms by kilogram.
It was also present in his stomach – all indicating that the star had built up a significant tolerance to the substance.
Fentanyl is widely considered to be more dangerous than heroin, and is one of many opioids involved in the US and Canada’s current prescription drug crisis.
The substance is often mixed with heroin or cocaine by street dealers attempting to increase potency or cover low-quality goods – but because pure fentanyl is so strong, it can be difficult to appropriately and safely dilute.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids – and roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for pain misuse them, 12 percent develop a use disorder, and 4 to 6 percent who misuse opioids eventually move on to heroin.