The cause of Prince’s death raises the profile of one of the most dangerous but little-known drugs fueling opioid deaths.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid or painkiller – first developed in the 1960s.
It’s about 100 times more powerful than morphine and between 30-50 times more powerful than heroin.
‘It is so potent and so deadly that even a microgram amount can kill someone’ said Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Rusty Payne.
Doctors prescribe it to cancer patients and others experiencing severe pain – often in the form of lollipops and patches but more illicit forms are now proliferating.
It’s also a driving force behind a sweeping drug epidemic which claimed 47,000 deaths in 2014 according to the most recent estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That was before fentanyl started to take hold of the nation.
In recent years, the drug has been illegally manufactured in labs in Mexico and China.
It’s often used to cut heroin without buyers’ knowledge – resulting in lethal consequences.
Tests have shown that Prince died of an opioid overdose the Midwest medical examiner’s office confirmed on Thursday.
This surprised friends and family members who said Prince avoided alcohol and drugs and maintained a healthy lifestyle.
On Thursday however medical examiner A Quinn Strobl released the office’s assessment of Prince’s cause of death: ‘self-administered fentanyl’ a powerful opioid.
The office said it could not offer further comment.
In a press release the Carver County sheriff’s office said it ‘continues its investigation’.