Hal Horowitz/WireImage; Aaron Lambert-Pool/Getty
June 27, 2009 09:40 PM

Spiritual teacher and medical doctor Deepak Chopra tells PEOPLE that his longtime friend Michael Jackson suffered from lupus, an autoimmune disease, and a skin disorder for many years.

“He had been diagnosed with lupus and he had vitiligo,” Chopra says. “There’s some recent research that suggests that if children have experienced either physical or verbal, mental, emotional or sexual abuse, then 20, 30 years later they can develop these autoimmune diseases including lupus.”

He adds, “Michael, he was never sexually abused but according to him, he was traumatized verbally and physically in his childhood, and it was a big issue with him.”

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, and Chopra said it can cause skin discoloration known as vitiligo. “He had a lot of blotches on his skin, huge white patches all over his body. So he would cover up his body and that of course gave food for fodder to the press,” Chopra says.

And Jackson was no stranger to pain medication. At various points in his life, he used Oxycontin, Vicodin and Demerol, Chopra said.

Chopra’s son, Gotham, who was also close to Jackson, also says that the singer, 50, had lupus, but it was his skin disorder that bothered him.

“It was very disturbing to him that people thought he always wanted to be white and he was bleaching his skin. [But] he identified as being a black person and so it was troubling to him that everyone thought that he was a hater of his own race,” Gotham explains. “And the lupus, why he didn’t just come out more clearly and say that was the problem, I’m not sure. But I know it was something that bothered him a lot.”

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