What Is Propofol, The Drug Found in Michael Jackson's Body When He Died?

Fans will be able to relive the memory of late singer Michael Jackson through ABC's two-hour special The Last Days of Michael Jackson Thursday, but some may not remember his cause of death.

Jackson died June 25, 2009, at the age of 50 years old. It was confirmed that the "Smooth Criminal" crooner's cause of death was initially attributed to a cardiac arrest. However, it was later determined through an autopsy that an overdose of propofol ultimately killed Jackson.

Propofol is an anesthetic drug used to facilitate relaxation or sleepiness. Jackson was reportedly administered propofol infusions by Dr. Conrad Murray—his personal physician—for two months as a sleep-aid, causing him to abstain from rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, CNN reported in 2013.

"There are reports of the abuse of propofol for recreational and other improper purposes, which have resulted in fatalities and other injuries," RxList's website says. "Instances of self-administration of propofol by health care professionals have also been reported, which have resulted in fatalities and other injuries. Inventories of propofol should be stored and managed to prevent the risk of diversion."

While the Los Angeles County coroner's said Jackson died of "acute propofol intoxication," other drugs were detected in his system upon the autopsy's completion. They ultimately ruled his death as a homicide. 

"The drugs propofol and lorazepam were found to be the primary drugs responsible for Mr. Jackson's death," the coroner said in an August 2009 statement, according to The Washinton Post. "Other drugs detected were: midazolam, diazepam, lidocaine and ephedrine."

Jackson's autopsy additionally noted that he had pigmentation issues due to vitiligo, his lips were tattooed pink, his eyebrows were tattooed a dark shade and the front of his scalp was tattooed black to match wigs he wore when performing, according to CNN. The Jackson family lawyer, Michael Koskoff, revealed this information despite the fact that it didn't contribute to the singer's untimely death.

At the time, Jackson's death was shrouded in mystery. Murray found the singer in his bed unconscious at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. Murray alerted the paramedics to the scene, who transported Jackson to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. The hospital staffers, including emergency physicians and cardiologists, had "attempted to resuscitate him for a period of more than one hour but were unsuccessful," the UCLA Medical Center said in a statement.  

Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2011 and sentenced to four years behind bars at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles, but he only served a two-year stint. He was released on parole in 2013.

"I did not agree with Michael on using such a powerful sedative for sleep," Murray told Australia's 60 Minutes in 2013. "What I told Michael is that we have to get you off that substance. However, I mean, to call it ideal or non-ideal, Michael Jackson is not a guy you can just say, 'Stop it.'" He continued to deny being responsible for the late singer's death in the 2016 book, This Is It! The Secret Lives of Dr. Conrad Murray and Michael Jackson.

Joe Jackson, the singer's father, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his late son’s physician in 2010 but dropped it in 2012. AEG Live, the promoters behind Jackson's final tour, also faced a lawsuit from Jackson's mother Katherine Jackson and his three children—Paris, Prince and Blanket Jackson—in 2010. AEG hired Murray as his tour doctor, but a jury determined the company couldn't be held accountable for the "Thriller" singer's death.

The Last Days of Michael Jackson was scheduled to air Thursday on ABC.

michael jackson pic Singer Michael Jackson preforms before an estimated audience of 60,000 in Brunei on July 16, 1996. He died of a propofol overdose in June 2009 at 50. Francis Sylvain/AFP/Getty Images

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