The late Paul Horner in 2016.
The late Paul Horner in 2016.
Courtesy of J.J. Horner

Report: Paul Horner Died of Drug Overdose

The question of what caused Paul Horner’s death has finally been answered. And, as his friends and family suspected, it involved drugs.

A report issued by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner this week states that the 38-year-old comedian and internet hoaxster’s death earlier this year was caused by a fatal mix of fentanyl and other drugs.

Horner was found dead on September 18 while lying in a bed at his mother’s home in Laveen.

According to the medical examiner’s report, drug paraphernalia, including a plastic baggie and white powdery substance, was discovered at the scene.

An autopsy and toxicology screening by the medical examiner revealed that Horner was under the influence of furanyl fentanyl, Klonopin, alcohol, Valium, and despropionyl fentanyl when he died.

His death has been ruled as accidental.

Furanyl fentanyl and despropionyl fentanyl are both synthetic opioids and have been linked with a sharp rise in drug overdose deaths over the last few years.

According to the medical examiner’s report, furanyl fentanyl “has been characterized as 100 times more potent than morphine” while despropionyl fentanyl is “used in the clandestine manufacture of illicit fentanyl.”

In October, the Centers for Disease Control reported that illegally manufactured fentanyl-related drugs have killed half of those who died from opioid overdoses last year. That same month, USA Today also called fentanyl the “leading killer” of the opioid crisis.

Horner had a lengthy history of drug use and struggled with addiction, which I documented in a recent Phoenix New Times feature story about him.

He was arrested by Chandler Police in 2011 on multiple drug-related and money-laundering charges after he was caught with an estimated $15,000 in narcotics. He later served four months in Tent City as a result.

Horner’s issues with drugs, however, go back even further.

As was mentioned in the story, he claimed to have imported ketamine from India in his 20s.

His brother, J.J. Horner, told me in an interview for the story that Paul “struggled with drugs and alcohol on and off for years,” likely due to anxiety issues he dealt with for most of his life.

“He had really bad anxiety, which was a big thing,” J.J. told me. “His struggles with drugs and alcohol, I think, just mainly came from his anxiety in general. I think anxiety was probably the biggest staple in his life or at least his biggest inhibitor.”

During a Facebook chat I had with Paul back in 2014, he made a comment that’s eerily prescient in retrospect.

“Opiates are pure evil man,” he wrote. “I'll be the first to admit, they are fun and make you feel good. But then you have to start taking more and more, and every day after every day. That's not fun.”

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