Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musician Tom Petty died of an accidental drug overdose that included the opioid painkiller Fentanyl and an anti-anxiety drug in the benzodiazepine class, the medical examiner-coroner for the county of Los Angeles announced on Friday.
The musician had been prescribed pain medications for knee problems and a fractured hip, and was also taking the anti-anxiety drug and a sleep aid.
In October, at age 66, Petty suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California, and passed away shortly after. His death certificate failed to list a cause of death at the time, however, and instead simply read “deferred,” pending an autopsy.
In a statement released Friday, coroner Jonathan Lucas said that Petty’s system showed signs of several opioid painkillers, including fentanyl and oxycodone, in addition to the other drugs.
Fentanyl is roughly 35 times stronger
than heroin and is available with a prescription. It is also sold illegally and swapped into fake pills sold as brand-name painkillers like Norco, Percocet, and Xanax.
In a post shared to Petty’s Facebook page on Friday evening
, Petty’s wife, Dana, and daughter, Adria, wrote that Petty had “many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems and most significantly a fractured hip.” Petty continued to tour despite these limitations, they said.
“We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including Fentanyl patches,” the post read, “and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.”
The family also used the announcement as an opportunity to talk about the ongoing opioid crisis. More than 63,600 Americans were killed by opioid painkillers last year — 11,200 more people than the year before that and the highest number of lives claimed by the crisis so far.
“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,” the post read. “Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.”
Opioid painkillers have claimed the lives of several celebrities in recent years.
Music legend Prince, who was also reported to have suffered from hip pain, died last year from a fentanyl overdose and may have unwittingly taken the drug
. Pills found in his home were labeled “Watson 385,”
a stamp used to identify some hydrocodone-based painkillers, but tests revealed that those pills contained fentanyl instead.
In Petty’s case, prescription opioid painkillers like Fentanyl were not the only drugs in his system.
According to the coroner’s report, Petty had also taken or been prescribed benzodiazepines (commonly known as “benzos), which can be prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks. But combining opioids and benzos can be dangerous, since benzos can strengthen opioids’ sedative qualities.
Petty’s cause of death in the report is listed as “mixed drug intoxication” with the manner of death being deemed accidental.