Tom Petty’s death has been ruled an accidental drug overdose, the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner announced on Friday. The singer’s family says he’d been taking the various medications to treat severe chronic pain.
Petty’s official cause of death is listed as “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity.” He was taking Fentanyl, oxycodone, Xanax, Restoril (a sedative that treats insomnia) and Celexa (an SSRI that treats depression). He died on October 2, 2017 after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Malibu home.
A statement released on Petty’s website by his wife Dana Petty and oldest daughter Adria Petty said Petty had emphysema, knee problems and a fractured hip. He toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip, and on the day he died, he was told his hip had “graduated to a full on break.”
“It is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his overuse of medication,” the statement read. “We feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident.”
The statement also acknowledged the current opioid crisis and hoped the coroner’s findings could “save lives.”
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.
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.
Petty had been open about his previous heroin addiction, which he battled in the 1990s. Studies have shown that people with a previous history of addiction are at greater risk of misusing opioid pain medication.
In 2016, 42,249 drug fatalities involved opioids, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The rate of deadly overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl increased from 9,580 in 2015 to 19,413 in 2016.
Studies show the majority of people prescribed opioid pain medication do not develop an addiction. It’s estimated between 1 and 12 percent of people do. As these growing numbers are addressed, it is important to include chronic pain patients in the discussion, many of whom responsibly use prescribed pain medication under the supervision of a doctor.