Just before the second anniversary of megastar Prince's death, federal prosecutors have announced they will file no criminal charges in the case. Prince died at age 57 in April 2016, after overdosing on fentanyl-laced pain pills. He was found unresponsive at his studio compound Paisley Park in Minnesota.
Authorities found substantial evidence that Prince had been struggling with opioid addiction, although the star had apparently hidden it from those close to him. His doctor had prescribed oxycodone in order to deal with chronic pain, but the doctor prescribed the medication in the name of Prince's longtime friend and bodyguard. The doctor has been fined $30,000 for the illegal prescription but is not the target of the criminal investigation.
Earlier that April, Prince reportedly passed out on a plane flight and had to be revived by two shots of naloxone, which is used to reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. However, the musician refused routine overdose testing at that time.
The singer was noticeably sick with flu in the days before his death, and several friends and his doctor tried to help him. However, he hid his alleged addiction well, and his friends, knowing he was an intensely private person, did not press him.
After his death, a toxicology report found fentanyl in Prince's blood, liver and stomach. The concentration in his blood was 67.8 micrograms per liter, which experts say is "exceedingly high." Oxycodone was not listed as a cause of death.
A county official told the Associated Press that several pills were discovered at Prince's compound after his death and some were later found to be counterfeit. There is reason to suppose that Prince did not realize his pain pills were counterfeit and contained fentanyl, which is approximately 50 times more potent than heroin.
Authorities were unable to trace the source of the counterfeit pills. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota has announced that there is no credible evidence that could be used to press federal criminal charges in the case. An anonymous law enforcement official told the AP that the federal investigation is now inactive and will remain so unless new information is received.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 2 million Americans were abusing or had become addicted to prescription opioid drugs in 2014, and the numbers keep growing. Experts on the opioid epidemic say that there is a brisk, anonymous underground market for counterfeit pills, and the likelihood that they contain fentanyl is "extremely high." With Pennsylvania one of the hardest hit states in the opioid crisis, people need to be on the lookout for these counterfeit pills.
If you have been arrested for illegal prescription drug use, contact an attorney. You need to protect your rights and work toward a resolution that focuses on addiction treatment.