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Drugs & Health Blog

Prince Died From an Overdose of Fentanyl

The NIDA Blog Team

Medical authorities have discovered what caused the death of the musician Prince: He overdosed on the drug fentanyl.

The announcement may have been the first time you heard about fentanyl. It’s a drug that can be very bad news if used in a way other than recommended by doctors.

Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid that doctors sometimes prescribe for patients who are in extreme pain, like right after serious surgery, or cancer patients nearing the end of their lives.

Prince reportedly had hip surgery in the mid-2000s and he may have still been in some pain, but it’s unclear how and where he got the drug. People sometimes get it from their doctors, but there’s also an illegal version of fentanyl, with street names like Apache, China White, China Girl, and TNT.

Lethal weapon

Just how powerful is fentanyl? Up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and up to 100 times stronger than morphine. It’s supposed to be used only by patients who have the highest level of pain.

How dangerous is it? Well, when officials seize a batch of fentanyl, they have to wear the highest-grade Hazmat suit, because the drug can also be absorbed through your skin.

So it’s easy for someone to overdose on fentanyl. In fact, between 2013 and 2014, fentanyl overdoses increased by 80 percent in the U.S.

Hiding in plain sight

Sometimes fentanyl is sold by itself; sometimes it’s mixed with heroin, cocaine, or other drugs. So a person who uses those drugs also risks using fentanyl without knowing it. And because even a small amount of it can be dangerous or deadly, the user wouldn’t know they’re risking their life.

Illegal fentanyl mixed with heroin may also be a factor in the increase of overdose deaths involving heroin, which have more than tripled in four years.

Fake meds, real danger

Fentanyl can hide out in other places, too. Counterfeit (fake) pain relievers and anxiety medications that contain fentanyl are being sold on the street. The pills may be disguised as ordinary prescription drugs like Percocet, Xanax, and Norco.

These fake pills can be much cheaper than the real versions—and, no surprise, they’re also leading to overdoses. You should never take a prescription drug unless a doctor prescribed it for you and it came from a real, trusted pharmacy.

What this all comes down to is: If you use any one of several different illegal drugs, you could also be using fentanyl. And Prince’s death is a reminder that fentanyl can give you much more than you bargained for.

How many opioid overdoses involve fentanyl? Find out here.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


thanks !
Allah Hu Akbar
that's is crazy but real
OMG!!!!!! THAT IS SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's crazy how fast drugs can overtakes people. One day Prince was an idol, then he was gone.
It's scary how drugs can do that to you. I think people should stop doing drugs especially this one because it's very bad.
I can't believe that drugs have such control of society
I think that anyone can take drugs and they effect everyone in a way even Prince
I think that doctors should not be prescribing fentanyl if it's that dangerous and addicting.
I didn’t know that Prince died from an opioid overdose. I also didn’t know that Prince had a hip surgery because that’s the reason he kept taking the drug. I wonder how long he was taking the drug since the surgery like was he hooked the whole time since his surgery did he take a break?
This information on fentanyl is very important. Every person should be taught about it and ways to stay away from it so that the world doesn’t lose any more lives from overdoses.
It crazy how fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroine and 100 times stronger than morphine. Also it's crazy how between 2013 and 2014 fentanyl overdoses increased by 80 percent
Well, it sucks that powerful drugs like Fentanyl can kill some of the best artists of all time. It’s bad now that a lot of our society is now using it illegally. In the end, they’ll just end up like Price.
I never knew drugs can be "Fake" It's crazy how singers like prince die from a overdose
This blog post was very interesting and helpful. It taught me a lot and I learned many new things about fentanyl that I never knew about. Many people are prescribed with fentanyl by doctors because they might feel pain, but others use fentanly just because, and they eventually can overdose. Fentanly is very scary because you do not have to inject it or do anything like that to get overdose, but just by it getting on your skin many side effects can start happening. Be CareFul!
Its scary that fentanyl can be hidden in so many different drugs
The drug fentanyl is up to 50 times worse then heroin. This could be really bad especially when it is not prescribed by a doctor. We finally found out that Prince died from fentanyl
It’s crazy to see how even celebrities and millionaires are not exempt from the effects of drugs and that they are, in fact, sometimes the most heavily impacted by it.
It is really really scary how drugs can take over your self and to die from drugs or overdose
It is crazy how dangerous fentanyl is. It can kill someone by touching it. It is also sad that the overdoses from this drug have increased so much in such a short time frame.
Prince was an idol to many. It’s crazy how a simple drug has that much power on someone’s life that it can cause a death, such as Princes
Personally I was and am still a fan of Prince's music. This goes to show you anyone can oversodse no matter who they are. It's really sad to see him die from a fentany overdose and I hope this sends a message to kids that drugs are really dangerous and to think twice about usage.
It is very interesting that something that can be given by a doctor can kill you. People thunk that if a doctor gives it to you it must be safe, but they are wrong. It's hard to belive that a drug can be 50 times stronger than herion considering that it is a bad drug. It is also interesting that any one person can go onto the streets and buy any drug that they want.
I have been reading the local news paper where I live in Minnesota as well as watching the news and drug dealers are using a drug from veterinary clinics called carfentynol and mixing it with heroin and in our state almost 100 ppl have overdosed and died!!!! That's not accounting for the ones that overdosed and were saved,why do veterinary have that drug? We need to stop the senseless deaths !!!!
I think it’s insane how heroin can effect a persons life completely, now multiply that by 50 since fentanyl is 50 times worse then heroin. Why would someone ever try illegal opioids if the risk of this drug being mixed in is possible.
Fentanyl’s absorptive propertys make it extremely dangerous especially in its concentrated form, a drop of Fentanyl a few mm across can overdose a full grown adult male in minutes.
It’s crazy to think how something prescribed by doctors can kill you in short doses if you use it incorrectly. This article is very informative on what fentanyl is and how it affects people. Along with Prince’s death, this also serves as a reminder of how quickly and harshly drugs can take over your life.
I think this drug should be more secure and less accessible if it's so dangerous. The drug should only be given out at hospitals or prescribed if it's really needed.
Did prince say he was still in extreme pain just to use the drug, or would it have been from the streets
It’s crazy how fast people can get addicted to one drug and not think anything of it. Getting addicted to one drug could lead you to get addicted to other drugs and could eventually kill you. It’s better to just stay away from drugs and you’ll be safe.
I was surprised that prince died at 50 but then I found out he died through drug overdose. Fentnyl should be very hard to get legally or illegally how are drug dealers making this easily.
It’s sad when a celebrity loses their life, but it’s even sadder when drugs are the cause. The use of heroin and fentanyl need to be erradicated before even more lives are lost.
I’ve learned that fentanyl is a powerful opioid that doctors can prescribe to patients as opioids. It is 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl can be observed through the skin so doctors must wear Hazmat suits. Also, fentanyl is highly addictive. Sometimes, it’s mixed with other drugs on the street. Fentanyl is a very dangerous drug and should not be used.
I remember when Prince died, but I could not recall the drug he died from. This shocks me as Fentanyl is obviously a very potent/dangerous drug and the fact that I’m only aware of is name is alarming. At 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than Morphine, it seems like something I should’ve heard about in school or on the news more frequently. In addition, it seems like doctors must be more careful about who they prescribe this drug to and for how long. Overall, I think everyone must be more aware of the drug, along with its extreme effects.
I agree. The level of awareness must be raised. Parents, teachers and professionals in the medical field need to be educated. These leaders need to share information related to the dangers associated with the use of fentanyl with those most at risk. The pharmaceutical companies and medical community should be held responsible for their role in this epidemic.
I am very confused why people use a drug this powerful. After reading the article and finding out you need a powerful hazmat suit to stay protected I don't know how people can use it with no protection.
I think heroin and fentanyl need to be taken off the face of this earth. They are bad and can harm or even kill people. It’s not worth getting high if you have the risk of dying.
I had heard about Prince's death on the news, and gossip around my area also somewhat informed me that his death was most likely a drug overdose. Yet, I didn't believe it until now. I thought I was informed of most dangerous drugs. I hadn't even heard of Fentanyl until this post.

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