Elvis Presley’s Cause of Death: How Did the Legend Die?

Elvis Presley Death Cause

Getty Singer Elvis Presley poses for a studio portrait

Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll. He was a music legend. And, he died too soon. Presley died on August 16, 1977, at his home of Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 42 years old when he died. His cause of death was determined to be cardiac arrhythmia, aka a heart attack, though several drugs were found in his system. Biography reported that it was suspected an overdose of prescription drugs caused Presley’s heart to stop. PBS reported that the drugs found in Presley’s system included opiates Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol, and codeine, along with Quaaludes.

So, what led to the singer’s death. According to All That’s Interesting, he struggled with drug abuse of amphetamines, which were reportedly prescribed by his doctor, Dr. George Nichopoulos, who was his physician for about a decade. Telegraph reported that Nichopoulos stated, “Elvis’ problem was that he didn’t see the wrong in it. He felt that by getting it from a doctor, he wasn’t the common everyday junkie getting something off the street. He was a person who thought that as far as medications and drugs went, there was something for everything.”

In 1973, Presley actually suffered two overdoses, one of which landed him in a coma, as reported by The Guardian. He then started canceling performances and concerts. By 1976, he had a lot of health issues that were reported to be caused by drug use. Presley was reported to be suffering from glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, diabetes, an enlarged colon, and irritable bowel syndrome when he died.

It was Presley’s fiancee at the time, Ginger Alden, who found him unresponsive on the floor of his bathroom when he died. He was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. local time.

Alden recalled, “Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position while using the commode and then had fallen forward, in that fixed position, directly in front of it.” According to The Mirror, Alden said, “Just after 2 p.m., I awoke and walked into Elvis’s bedroom in search of him. The bathroom door was cracked open a little … I knocked on the door and said, ‘Elvis?’ There was no answer. Slowly opening the door, I peered in and saw Elvis on the floor. I stood paralyzed. Elvis looked as if his entire body had completely frozen in a seated position then fallen forward.”

After briefly trying to figure out if Presley was okay, Alden called for his family. Alden said, “I reached for the phone by the toilet and called downstairs. His dad Vernon arrived, accompanied by his partner Sandy and Elvis’s cousin Patsy. ‘Oh God, son, don’t die,’ he pleaded … He sat down and shouted ‘breathe’ with the rest of us as Sandy tried giving Elvis mouth-to-mouth.”

PBS reported that when Presley died, he was sitting on the toilet and was straining to have a bowel movement, which may have put pressure on his heart. There are also suggestions that Presley had a heart muscle disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

The Guardian reported that Presley’s autopsy was reopened in 1994. Coroner Dr. Joseph Davis said, “There is nothing in any of the data that supports a death from drugs. In fact, everything points to a sudden, violent heart attack.”