Sparking A Nationwide Opioid Debate: Rock Legend Tom Petty Dies Of Accidental Overdose
Truly heartbreaking. The death of The Heartbreakers' frontman Tom Petty opens up a discussion about the use of painkillers and opioids.
It's been three months since musician Tom Petty's death, and his family and coroner have just confirmed that an accidental drug overdose was what took his life. He died shortly after completing his band's 40th anniversary tour that had them play in over 50 locations.
The 66-year-old rockstar was found unresponsive in his Malibu home on October 2, 2017, and was immediately rushed to the UCLA Medical Center. He was hooked onto life support for less than 24 hours when he died on October 3. Doctors previously attributed his death to cardiac arrest.
On February 17-19, 1977, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers played three sold-out shows at The Keystone, the legendary rock club in downtown Berkeley played by the likes of Jerry Garcia, Ray Charles, The Talking Heads, The Ramones, Metallica and B.B King, among many more. It was the start of the band’s first cross-country tour supporting their debut album, and the Keystone shows were the springboard, hurtling the band east to shows in the Midwest, East Coast and, ultimately, Europe. The Keystone closed its doors in 1984, but onstage a few miles away at the Greek Theatre on the first night of the band’s three shows on the University of California campus, Tom Petty hadn’t forgotten the hospitality and enthusiasm shown to the Heartbreakers on those three nights by the Berkeley faithful a little more than 40 years ago. “We’ve been coming here since 1977,” Tom said after a rip-roaring “Yer So Bad." “We played three shows at this club in town called The Keystone on our first tour, and you all have been coming back ever since. I can’t thank you enough for that. It means the world to us." Following the first show at The Greek, Tom came down with laryngitis and was forced to postpone the second and third shows in Berkeley and a show in Sacramento for one week. Back fully rested and recuperated, Tom was in high spirits at The Greek on Monday night, thanking the crowd for their understanding the need to push back the shows before leading the Heartbreakers through a two-hour-plus show that touched on nearly every era of their storied career. Highlights include a great “Into The Great Wide Open, “ a haunting “Crawling Back To You” with beautiful background vocals from Scott Thurston and the Webb Sisters and an epic “Learning to Fly” with Tom backed by a chorus of 9,000 fans while archival footage of the band played on the video screen behind them onstage. For the last night in Berkeley, Tom pulled out one of the band’s oldest hits in their catalog - “Breakdown” from their self-tilted 1977 debut. The 2017 Greek Theatre version was [...continued on TomPetty.com]. For complete recap, set list, and photos head to www.tompetty.com/tour (??: @actennille)
Wishing to know more about the circumstances surrounding his death, Tom's wife, Dana, and daughter, Adria, waited for autopsy results that yielded very different insights: a mix of prescription drugs was what caused Tom to die of multi-system organ failure.
In February 1977, Tom and the band played three sold-out nights at a legendary club in Berkeley that closed in 1984. Come to the spot where this venue was located and name the artist that opened for Tom and the guys for those three nights in Berkeley in '77, and you'll win a PAIR of tickets to tonight's sold-out show at The Greek! #TPHB40 #Berkeley #TicketGiveaway #HeartbreakerHistoryLesson
The drugs he took were completely legal and obtained with doctors' prescriptions. Tom was taking a potent combination of painkillers that included fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl. He needed the medication to treat a myriad of health conditions that included emphysema, knee pain, and an injured hip.
While on the road during his last tour, the shaggy-haired singer's hip injury gradually worsened, turning it into a full blown hip fracture. His family, bandmates, and manager suspect that the pain from his hip injury had become too much to take, prompting him to increase his intake of medication without first consulting a doctor.
News of this overdose has sparked debate in the US where, just last year, an estimate of 20,000 people died of an accidental overdose due to painkillers and synthetic opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In particular, the use of fentanyl is a growing controversy, considering that it was found to be 50 times more powerful than heroin, a lethally addicting drug.
Tonight~my thoughts are with Tom Petty, his family, his bandmates, and his fans. May his music continue to touch the hearts of so many. "I do realize this music is going to be around much longer than me. I do know that now. I want it to be something that does feel timeless and honest." #rip #tompetty #heartbreakers #life #death #spirit #words #moments #gonetoosoon #singer #music #love #always
Other notable personalities who have died from prescription painkiller overdoses include musicians Elvis Presley and Prince, actors Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Chris Farley.
Tom's family chose to publicize the findings about his death in hopes of helping other families avoid the same fate. In a statement released on official website TomPetty.com, his now-widowed wife and daughter write, "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 end their heartfelt message on a positive note, saying that Tom had at least died a painless death, and that his memory will continue to live on in their hearts, as well as those of the fans that he made over the course of a four-decade long career.
Rising to fame in the 70s with his band, Tom Petty's most famous songs include rock classics "Free Fallin'," "American Girl," and "I Won't Back Down." Tom was was laid to rest on October 16 in Pacific Palisades, California.
Photos from @lsmerrell