How Did Elvis Presley Die?

They say Elvis is still alive, probably kicking it with Tupac and Richie Edwards, but they are wrong. Elvis Presley died on August 16, 1977, the year punk broke. He was found in the bathroom of his home in Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee and his his cause of death was ruled as a heart attack. But how and why did a man of just 42 die of an illness more commonly associated with much older people? This is just one of many questions surrounding the death of The King.

Was Elvis in general good health at the time of his death?

He was not. In 1977, Elvis was suffering from the following ailments: high blood pressure, aucoma, an enlarged colon and liver damage. It’s also reported that he weighed 25 stone, was bed-ridden and could barely do anything without help from an assistant. Some have claimed, though, that this is an exaggeration. Yet it is generally agreed that Elvis was far from the young, fit army sergeant he had once been.

Were there drugs in his system at the time of his death?


Yes. Quite a few, in fact. For starters: 10 times the amount of codeine normally recommended for medical purposes. It’s been claimed that he scored codeine from the a dentist the day before his death. This was unknown to his personal physician, ‘Dr Nick’, aka George Constantine Nichopoulos, who died last year. Other drugs found in Elvis’ system when he died: diazepam, methaqualone (also known by the brand names Quaalude and Mandrax), phenobarbital, ethchlorvynol and ethinamate. A toxicology report concluded: “The strong possibility is that these drugs were the major contribution to his demise.”

Where did Elvis acquire these drugs?

That would be Dr Nick. Between January 1 and August 1977, the seven-and-a-half months before Elvis died, the good doctor wrote the musician prescriptions for at least 8,805 and different types of medication. It was 19,012 types of medication between January 1975 and Elvis’ death. The pills Dr Nick prescribed include: Percodan, Dilaudid, Demerol and Cocaine Hydrochloride.

Was his heart attack caused purely by drugs?

As we’ve seen, it seems they may have been a contributing factor. But in 2014 an interesting piece of evidence emerged. What was purportedly a lock of Elvis’ hair was subjected to a DNA test on the Channel 4 show Dead Famous DNA and was found to show that The King suffered from the genetic heart muscle disease hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Towards the end of his life, he did have fatigue, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. Presenter Mark Evans said, “For years, Elvis has been blamed for his own death, for overeating or overdosing on drugs. Both of these addictions wouldn’t have helped. But it seemed Elvis had a flaw in his DNA.” For the record, Evans also said, “I can’t tell you 100% that is Elvis’ DNA. That’s not possible.”

Are there any other theories?

Here’s a curio: Elvis fell over and cracked his head on a bath tub while shooting the film Clambake in 1967. He was knocked unconscious and hospitalised. This, along with three other major head injuries Elvis suffered at various points in his life, could have given him Traumatic Brain Injury. This can cause autoimmune disorder, which manifests itself as a breakdown of bodily organs – symptoms are changes to body shape, enlarged organs, out-of-character behaviour and severe pain. Elvis suffered from all of these symptoms in the last 10 years of his life.

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