Prince Kept Opioids In Over-The-Counter Pill Containers

By Kelly Burch 04/19/17

Recently unsealed search warrants and affidavits from the investigation into Prince's death revealed more info about the icon's opioid use.

Prince performs during half-time for Super Bowl XLI

Nearly a year after Prince died of an overdose, the investigation into the music icon’s death continues—most recently revealing that the singer had a myriad of prescription painkillers in his home, some of them hidden in bottles meant to contain over-the-counter medications like Bayer and Aleve. 

This week, search warrants and affidavits were unsealed, providing a glimpse into the ongoing investigation of Prince’s death. Investigators found pills that contained fentanyl in an Aleve bottle, and more in a Bayer bottle, in Prince’s home. Although authorities have ruled that Prince died of a fentanyl overdose, they are still trying to find out how he came into possession of the drug.

“The investigation remains active at this point,” Jason Kamerud, chief deputy for the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, told The New York Times. “We’ve gained a lot of progress over the last year, but there still is some more work to be done.”

Prince was found dead in an elevator at Paisley Park, his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, on April 21 of last year. No one has been charged in connection with his death, but the papers revealed that people who were at the home and interviewed near the time of death “provided inconsistent and, at times, contradictory statements.”

Much of the investigation centered on Kirk Johnson, a close friend of Prince who had been employed by the singer since the 1980s. Investigators found that at least one opioid prescription that was meant for Prince had been written in Johnson’s name. Prince’s doctor told investigators that he had prescribed the painkiller on April 14, a week before Prince’s death,“but put the prescription in Kirk Johnson’s name for Prince’s privacy,” according to a search warrant. 

The prescription was filled on the same day that Prince’s private plane made an emergency stop after the singer overdosed. At the time, Johnson told hospital authorities that Prince “may have taken Percocet.”

Despite the fact that Prince’s doctor, Michael T. Schulenberg, told investigators that he wrote the prescription in Johnson’s name, Schulenberg’s lawyer disputed that fact. 

“Dr. Schulenberg never directly prescribed opioids to Prince, nor did he ever prescribe opioids to any other person with the intent that they would be given to Prince,” Schulenberg’s lawyer, Amy S. Conners, said in a statement. 

It is illegal by Minnesota law to write a prescription in the name of someone other than the person intended to take the medication. However, Dr. Schulenberg has not received any discipline by the state medical board. 

Johnson also admitted to filling three prescriptions intended to treat anxiety on the day of Prince’s death. He said it “was the first time he had ever done something like that for Prince.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.