Exactly one month after indie-rock record producer and former Wilco musician Jay Bennett was found dead in bed at his home in downstate Illinois, Urbana-Champaign officials have said he died of an apparently accidental overdose of a common but controversial pain killer.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup told the Associated Press that tests show the 45-year-old musician died from fentanyl, a drug commonly found in patches prescribed to treat chronic pain.
In late April, Bennett wrote on his MySpace blog about dealing with intense pain from a hip injury suffered years ago during a dive from the stage while playing with Titanic Love Affair. He was preparing to have surgery, but was concerned about his lack of health insurance.
According to "Drugs of Abuse," a publication of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration:
First synthesized in Belgium in the late 1950s, fentanyl, with an analgesic potency of about 80 times that of morphine, was introduced into medical practice in the 1960s... Illicit use of pharmaceutical fentanyls first appeared in the mid-1970s in the medical community and continues to be a problem in the United States. To date, over 12 different analogues of fentanyl have been produced clandestinely and identified in the U.S. drug traffic. The biological effects of the fentanyls are indistinguishable from those of heroin, with the exception that the fentanyls may be hundreds of times more potent. Fentanyls are most commonly used by intravenous administration, but like heroin, they may also be smoked or snorted.