With millions of followers on TikTok and other social media platforms, Cooper Noriega seemed to be living the dream. He was not only an influencer, but he was also venturing into modeling and had ambitious plans to launch a clothing line focusing on mental health awareness. However, his life came to a screeching halt at just 19, when he took what he believed to be oxycodone, but it was actually a deadly dose of fentanyl.
“He was on his way to a Bible study. He stopped to get a Xanax from someone he trusted, but it was fentanyl. He never made it out of the parking lot where he was to get what he thought was one Xanax,” Cooper’s dad, Harold Noriega, told Emiy’s Hope during a Grieving Out Loud podcast.
Sadly, Cooper’s story is becoming all too familiar. Drug overdoses are killing young Americans at record levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 112,000 Americans died in the latest 12 month reporting period. While the latest data doesn’t break down these deaths by age, the most recent CDC information based on age found that the monthly death toll of people ages 10-19 rose from 31 in July 2019 to 87 in May 2021. With overall deaths increasing since 2021, that number is now likely higher.
More than twice as many adolescent boys are dying as girls. The majority of the deaths (59.9%) were non-Hispanic White tweens and teens, and more than 90% involved at least one opioid, including 84% of them involving fentanyl. In many of these cases, young adults took a counterfeit prescription pill that they likely didn’t know contained fentanyl, and only 1 in 10 of them had a history of substance use disorder. That’s why it’s important for parents to talk to their children about the danger of using drugs that are not prescribed to them by a doctor.
Driven by their personal loss, Harold Noriega and Angela Kennecke, the founder of Emily’s Hope, are on a mission to spare other parents the heartbreak of losing a child to illicit drugs. Your support for Emily’s Hope can also contribute to this vital cause.