In what has become a familiar story in recent years, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner has ruled that Tom Petty died of ‘multisystem organ failure’ caused by accidental drug toxicity due to multiple pain medications.
An autopsy found that Petty had several drugs in his system, including fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl. (In 2016, Prince was also found to have died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl). Petty also had coronary artery atherosclerosis and emphysema.
Found unconscious at his Malibu home, Petty, 66, was taken to UCLA’s Santa Monica hospital in full cardiac arrest and died October 2. He had just completed an extensive tour to mark the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary, concluding on September 25 with a three-night sold out season at the Hollywood Bowl.
In a statement, his family said that Petty had been using prescribed the drugs to treat emphysema, knee issues and a fractured hip.
Petty’s wife Dana and daughter Adria wrote in the statement, “Despite this painful injury, he insisted on keeping his commitment to his fans and he toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip and, as he did, it worsened to a more serious injury. 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 overuse of medication.”
Petty admitted in interviews that he had experimented with cocaine over the years and that in his late 40s he also developed a heroin addiction. He told biographer Warren Zanes (Petty: The Biography) that he had “Tried to go cold turkey, and that wouldn’t work.” Petty sought treatment prior to his marriage in 2001.
Petty was buried on October 16, 2017, at a private service in Pacific Palisades, California.
Full Statement from Dana and Adria Petty
Our family sat together this morning with the medical examiner – coroner’s office and we were informed of their final analysis that Tom Petty passed away due to an accidental drug overdose as a result of taking a variety of medications.
Unfortunately Tom’s body suffered from many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems and most significantly a fractured hip.
Despite this painful injury he insisted on keeping his commitment to his fans and he toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip and, as he did, it worsened to a more serious injury.
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.
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.
We continue to mourn with you and marvel at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers incredible positive impact on music and the world. And we thank you all for your love and support over the last months.
Thank you also for respecting the memory of a man who was truly great during his time on this planet both publicly and privately.
We would be grateful if you could respect the privacy of the entire Heartbreaker family during this difficult time.