Tom Petty (AP/Mark Humphrey)

Tom Petty died from an accidental drug overdose

Petty was reportedly on many medications, including fentanyl patches


Nicole Karlis
January 20, 2018 6:11PM (UTC)

Tom Petty passed away from an accidental drug overdose and opioids were involved, a statement from his family reveals.

His wife, Dana Petty, and daughter, Adria Petty, published the statement on TomPetty.com, explaining to fans that Petty’s unexpected death on October 2 was “a result of taking a variety of medications.” They revealed that Petty had suffered from serious maladies including emphysema, knee problems, and a hip fracture which “graduated” to a full break on the day he died.

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The family wrote:

“On the day he died he was informed his hip had graduated to a full on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his over use of medication.

We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.

As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives. Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.”

They added:

On a positive note we now know for certain he went painlessly and beautifully exhausted after doing what he loved the most, for one last time, performing live with his unmatchable rock band for his loyal fans on the biggest tour of his 40 plus year career. He was extremely proud of that achievement in the days before he passed.

Los Angeles County Coroner Jonathan Lucas also said in a statement, according to NPR, that Petty died at 66 from a “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity.” The drugs found from the autopsy were "fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl."

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 90 people die from an opioid overdose a day.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40 percent of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. From 1999 to 2014, drug overdose deaths have nearly tripled—and in 2014, 60 percent of those involved an opioid. People between the ages of 25 and 54 had the highest overdose rates—men are reportedly at a higher risk.

In 2015, the CDC issued a health alert after identifying an increase in fentanyl-related overdose fatalities. According to the alert, officials explain that fentanyl is “50-100 times more potent than morphine and approved for managing acute or chronic pain associated with advanced cancer.” Yet an estimated one out of five people without cancer or pain-related injuries are prescribed an opioid in an office setting.

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MedlinePlus, a website part of the National Institutes of Health, warns that fentanyl patches—which Petty’s family says he was taking—can cause life-threatening breathing problems, sedation or coma. It also issues a strong warning against being mixed with a long-list of other prescription medications.

According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in late October, “half of people in 10 states who died of opioid overdoses during the second half of 2016 tested positive for fentanyl.”


Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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