Ask Rikki

Family Funeral Speeches

Speech from Victoria’s father, David Siegel, at her funeral: I haven’t even started, but I’m already breaking up. I want to thank you all for turning out and honoring our family today.

This is the most horrible thing in my life. I have no script. I’m going to speak from my heart. I don’t know if I’m going to get through it. Bear with me.

No parent should have to go through this. Walking down the aisle a few minutes ago, I should have been walking her down the aisle. That’s what parents are supposed to do. It should have been me lying there, not her. I’m sorry.

She was a wonderful girl. She was a beautiful little girl, and she grew into a beautiful big girl. But she was troubled, like so many other teens today are troubled. She found comfort in taking prescription drugs when she couldn’t handle things. And she also got herself off them voluntarily just a month ago. She fell in love for the first time in her life to the wrong person. At her most vulnerable, she got a horrible cyberattack from his ex-girlfriend that put her over the top. It was on the 30-day anniversary of the time they met.

We don’t know if Victoria did it on purpose or if it was accidental. We were out of town. Today, she was supposed to have been on a cruise with her family. Instead, we’re laying her to rest. It’s not the way it’s supposed to happen.

But this is not about celebrating Victoria. One of the reasons we had an open casket was that every one of you will leave here with an impression in your head and say, “That’s not going to be my child.” We have such an epidemic in this country of our children getting on drugs. Over six children every single day overdose on drugs just in this community. We’re going to celebrate Victoria’s legacy by starting the Victoria Siegel Foundation. It’s going to keep other children from ending up where she is today.

We’ll get over this grief, but her legacy is going to be that other children will live as a result of her losing her life. We’re going to speak at schools and build a facility, like the Betty Ford facility, where kids can come who are troubled. Parents can bring their children. It’s not going to cost them an arm and a leg.

We put on the invitation today that in lieu of flowers, if you want to make a donation to the Victoria Siegel Foundation, that’s what we want. We don’t need your money; we need your support. When you invest money in something, it makes you a supporter.

This isn’t going to take the Siegel family. It will take a village. A village of people right here. We have to put an end to this so that other families aren’t suffering like we are.

We also want you to leave here and go home and hug your children tighter than ever before. Hug your grandchildren. Be thankful that you have them. We as a family are stronger now than we have ever been.

Speech from Victoria’s mother, Jackie Siegel, at her funeral: Good afternoon. And thank you all for coming and for your loving support. It really means a lot at this very difficult time for us.

Victoria, my God, she was so hard-headed. You know, she just wouldn’t listen to me, and it’s tough as a parent. But we were getting closer, and just yesterday, we were supposed to leave on a cruise—me, Victoria and the children. I was going to do special Mommy time with her, and she was so excited. She went and renewed her passport and paid $375 to overnight

it. That’s her passport photo up there, which turned out so beautiful. I’m

wearing the earrings she was wearing for the photo.

She didn’t have any intentions of doing this to herself. I believe it was an accident, and she thought she was going to wake up the next day.

And gosh, some of the things she used to irritate me with are what I’m going to miss the most. Like when she raided my closet, and my clothes were disappearing, especially my underwear. I was yelling at the lady who cleans my clothes. I thought I had a stalker or something! Then, I found out it was her.

We were sent a poem the other day by Mrs. World April Lufriu when she heard of Victoria’s passing. It’s called “Sweet Child.” Its author is unknown.

God made a sweet child,

a child who never grew old.

He made a smile of sunshine.

He molded a heart of pure gold.

He made that child as close to an angel

as anyone can ever be.

God made that child,

and He gave that child to me.

Then God saw His wonderful creation

growing very tired and weak,

so He wrapped the child in his loving arms

and said, “You, my child, I keep.”

But now, my sweet child is an angel,

free from hurt and pain.

I love you forever until we meet again.

So many times I’ve missed you.

So many times I’ve cried.

If all my love could have saved you,

sweet child, you would have never died.

Even all the money in the world couldn’t save her. I know David would give up his entire fortune.

One of the things I’m going to miss about Victoria is hearing that little tone in her voice when she said, “I love you, Momma.” And I’m going to miss her saying, “I love you, Daddy.” I’m going to miss her so much.

Speech from Victoria’s brother David Siegel Jr. at her funeral: Rikki had a peaceful, young, beautiful soul. One thing she loved was to make other people happier. She would go out of her way to think of others before herself. She just loved to see other people happy. I remember the last thing that she gave me was this purple shirt, and when she showed it to me, I told her I loved it! Seeing that smile on her face, it was so gorgeous—as bright as

the sun in the sky.

Speech from Victoria’s sister Debbie Siegel at her funeral: I always looked up to Rikki. Everything she did, I would always copy her. Rikki was a happy person. She did everything for everyone else. No matter who you were or what you did, she didn’t care. She only looked at the good.

Speech from Victoria’s brother Daniel Siegel at her funeral: Victoria Elizabeth Siegel, that was her name, but we called her Rikki. She chose that name because she thought it suited her personality. Regardless of how wealthy her background was, she was not afraid to pave her own path. She did things her way and only her way. Some of you knew her as little Victoria, our mommy’s

first child. To us, she was much more than a big sister. In my eyes, she was a goddess and will remain one for all eternity. She had a beautiful soul that can never be replaced.

Speech from Victoria’s sister Jordan Siegel at her funeral: I know that everyone is sad that we won’t get to see Rikki anymore, but I know one day we will get to see her again. I also feel sad knowing that my big sister had to go through so much pain, but now she lives in everlasting peace in paradise where there is no more pain or sadness.

Speech from Victoria’s sister Jacqueline Siegel at her funeral: One of my favorite memories of Rikki is when she taught me how to snowboard.

I have a feeling that she is watching us from a better place, and she is at peace. Even though she is not here, she’s always going to be in our hearts.

Speech from Victoria’s brother Drew Siegel at her funeral: As we sit here today, many of you think that Victoria, otherwise known as Rikki, is gone. But to me, her beautiful soul is standing at the back of the room watching over all of us. Rikki was not like anyone you’ve met before. She was free and anxious to explore new things. Aside from dogs, Rikki loved watching movies, painting, drawing and cooking. She was very good at music and writing, and she also loved photography. I also remember how good she was at hide-and seek. I want to pretend this is one of those games where she found the best hiding spot.

Speech from Victoria’s adopted sister Jonquil Peed at her funeral: Rikki made everybody a happy person just by looking at you. She had this smile you could see from miles away. The way she talked to you made you think the world was a better place.

Final Words from David Siegel at Victoria’s funeral: Victoria was the perfect storm.

She was a bright, creative, artistic young woman who started down a dangerous path of addiction. She had anxieties and didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life, so we sent her to a psychiatrist, who prescribed drugs. It was the beginning of the end of Victoria’s life. We miss her

every second of every day.

Our Hope by David and Jackie Siegel, Victoria’s Voice, Second Edition

In the depths of our grief, we became aware of a text message that Victoria wrote to us before her passing. She sent it to her boyfriend at the time, asking him to share it with us in the event of her death. In the text, she shared the location of her diary and suggested we publish it. We were completely shocked and confused. “Why would she write that? Why would we publish her innermost thoughts for the world to read?”

The answers were all in her diary, where she bared her soul in pages nobody saw until after she died. This book gives voice to her silent suffering and her unspoken call for help.

While it was heartbreaking for us to read Victoria’s intimate thoughts and troubled journey through addiction, we now understood the sad reason for her text. She knew the risks she was taking and the consequences she already experienced through her drug use. At the time, we did not. We were stunned to read how much she suffered. Her life was covered in a veil of darkness. She felt lost and alone. Where we saw a bright and beautiful girl, she saw someone who simply didn’t measure up.

No family should have to experience the immeasurable pain of losing a child.

We shared Victoria’s Voice to save others from a similar tragedy.

We hope this book will continue to engage parents and teens in lifesaving conversations about youth drug use and addiction. We encourage everyone to break the silence of addiction and bring those suffering to the light. You are not alone.

Introduction by Jackie Siegel, Victoria’s Voice, Second Edition

Our beautiful daughter Victoria “Rikki” Siegel was vivacious, independent and smart beyond her years. Her smile would light up a room and raise your spirits.

I believe she entered the world as a natural artist. She was able to draw perfect circles well before she turned two years old, and she retained her love of painting and drawing as she grew into her teenage years. It is no wonder that so many of her journal entries are decorated with her doodles and pencil drawings. That was Victoria.

Above all else, Victoria was a caregiver. She was a wonderful big sister to her six younger siblings. She cherished her rescue dog Zen, and she volunteered her time at a local animal shelter. She was our happy, free-spirited, beautiful hippie.

But that all changed—almost imperceptibly—until one day she was gone.

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been eight years since we lost Victoria to a drug overdose at just 18 years old. When she passed away on June 6, 2015, our world was shattered. It was a devastating loss that no parent should ever have to experience.

In hindsight, David and I are able to see the signs of Victoria’s struggle more clearly. The signs we missed or misinterpreted seem somehow more obvious and heartbreakingly avoidable. Although we cannot change Victoria’s story, we have committed to saving others through drug awareness and prevention—and by making lifesaving naloxone more widely accessible.

After we first published Victoria’s Voice in 2019, I really felt that we were making progress and moving in the right direction. What we didn’t see coming at the time was fentanyl, which is now the leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45. I used to think that heroin represented the worst of the drug crisis, but fentanyl is a threat like no other. The rules of the game have completely changed, and we find ourselves uncertain how to react, how to keep our children safe. Today, illicit pills made by Mexican cartels are laced with fentanyl and made to look exactly like legitimate prescription pills. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently reported that six out of every 10 counterfeit pills t hey confiscated in 2022 contained a deadly dose of fentanyl.2 A child might think they are taking Adderall from a trusted friend to get through their studies, but that pill might not be Adderall at all. One bad

choice could be the last choice that child ever makes. Kids ages 14 and under are now the fastest growing demographic dying from drug overdose.3 These children come from every walk of life and every corner of our country. We can no longer say, “It’s not my child, not my neighborhood and not my problem.”

It is everyone’s problem.

I have come to realize that no amount of work that David and I do will ever be enough to save the next generation of Americans from this threat. Instead, we must rally every single parent to lend their voice and strength to our united effort to save lives.

We hope Victoria’s Voice speaks meaningfully to parents and our youth about the risks of drug use and encourages them to action, whether for themselves, their loved ones, their community or beyond.

Introduction by David Siegel, Victoria’s Voice, Second Edition

I remember Victoria being full of life. She was our bubbly social butterfly with a natural-born talent to lead. I especially admired her ability to always see the good in people. She saw the best in everyone, and she always tried to help people become even better.

Victoria also loved animals, even from a very early age. She took all the time she needed to nurse a hurt or sick animal back to health, and she always chose to help the animal that no one else wanted. She’d say, “Dad, I might

be his last chance.” Her favorite rescue dog, Zen, was the ugliest dog in the world, yet Victoria thought he was beautiful.

As Victoria got older, she became more of a free spirit. She was quite a hippie! Even though our family had all the money we could ever need, she preferred to wear comfortable clothes and walk around barefoot. One of her dreams was to open a sushi restaurant with a sand floor on the beach. She vowed to prohibit shoes, and she planned to provide cubbies for diners to store their footwear. She wanted to name her restaurant the Rikki Tikki Tavern because all her friends called her Rikki.

By the time Victoria entered high school, things started to change. She dreaded going to school. She started skipping classes, and her grades dropped drastically. She also worried about her weight and developed anxiety.

Although I attributed much of Victoria’s moody behavior to being a typical teenager, I thought it would be a good idea to send her to a psychiatrist for counseling to make sure that she was okay. The psychiatrist prescribed Xanax, which sounded as benign as Advil to me. When Victoria was still acting strange several months later, I wanted her to go back to the psychiatrist. She came home with a prescription for a higher dose of Xanax.

While I worried that Victoria might not graduate high school—which I think she did just to prove me wrong—I had no idea that life’s pressures had become too much for her sensitive spirit. I think that is why Victoria turned to drugs.

I wish I had known then what I know now about the severity of the drug epidemic and the tragic consequences of preteen and teenage drug experimentation. I couldn’t save Victoria back then, but I will spend the rest of my life honoring her life and legacy. Because of her death, many more people will live. That is my promise to her.

Victoria’s Story by Jackie Siegel, Victoria’s Voice, Second Edition

When I was 31 years old, I was living in Miami, Florida, and producing the Mrs. Florida pageant. My pregnancy with Victoria was a surprise. When her biological dad learned that I was pregnant, he left us.

Although I was scared, I had a very healthy, happy pregnancy, and I was excited to be starting a new life. Victoria was born on November 25, 1996. I was so excited and nervous to be a new mom. When they discharged

Victoria and me from the hospital, I remember thinking to myself, “They’re

going to let me take her home?”

In the beginning, Victoria was not a happy baby. She had colic, and she cried all the time. Sometimes she cried so hard that she turned purple.

Fortunately for both of us, she soon grew into a very happy toddler who was quick to smile and laugh. It was during these very early days with Victoria that I met David Siegel at a friend’s birthday party in Florida. He was newly divorced and in the process of growing Westgate Resorts. I was head over heels!

David welcomed and loved Victoria as much as any father could love a daughter, and he formally adopted her when she was just one year old. He later proposed to me during the Illuminations show at Epcot on New Year’s Eve in 1999, and we got married at Westgate Lakes in Orlando in 2000. Victoria was an amazing flower girl. She worked so hard to get it right.

Victoria was not an only child for long. Our son David was born in 1999, Daniel in 2000 and Debbie in 2001. After that, Drew arrived in 2003, and our twins, Jacqueline and Jordan, made their debut in 2006. We also adopted my niece Jonquil in 2007 after her mother, my brother’s girlfriend, died of a drug overdose.

Victoria embraced her role as the big sister in our family. This was no surprise to me, as I had noticed early on her natural empathy for others. She enjoyed playing with her siblings and helping them out. Her brothers and sisters looked up to her, and David and Drew especially followed her around like adoring puppies.

Victoria’s empathy for others included animals as well, particularly the injured, sick and ugly ones! She loved to rescue animals, and she talked about becoming a veterinarian one day. She once adopted a very ill and hairless Chihuahua the day before he was scheduled to be euthanized. She saved his life. When Victoria was young, our home was always filled with pets. At one point, we had eight dogs, seven cats, five white peacocks, one indigo peacock, one white tiger, and one white tiger cub in our menagerie. Sadly, I

had to send the tigers away to a sanctuary when they got too big.

When Victoria ventured off to elementary school, she seemed to love the experience. She was smart, independent and funny. She especially enjoyed art class, drawing and painting, and she participated in many activities, including dance and cheerleading. She also followed in my pageant  footsteps, winning the Junior Miss Intercontinental pageant when she was just seven years old.

Without a doubt, though, Victoria was happiest when our whole family was together. We enjoyed doing many things as a family, especially painting and swimming, and all the children enjoyed skiing and mountain biking. We cherished our family traditions and countless family vacations. Our favorite destinations were Utah, Daytona Beach and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Middle school was a turning point in Victoria’s life. Her schoolmates,

especially the girls, started teasing her about her weight. While I thought she looked beautiful and fit, Victoria became more and more unhappy and preoccupied with her weight. She started a cycle of eating and starving herself, which really concerned me. She was also trying to make friends by giving them gifts and money, which left her wondering if they were truly her friends at all. When Victoria was 12 years old, David and I decided to send her to a weight loss camp in the hopes that it would help raise her self-esteem.

It did not.

There were other life-altering events in Victoria’s life that same year. Victoria grieved the loss of her paternal grandmother, with whom she was very close. Our family also began filming The Queen of Versailles after my chance

encounter with a film director who pitched the idea. The film crew practically moved in with us for two years as they documented our journey to build the largest home in America.

While I found the process enjoyable, I didn’t realize how damaging it was for Victoria. During filming, Victoria felt like she had no privacy. She also felt that the movie had presented our family in a bad light. When the show aired, everyone learned of our family’s wealth, which Victoria had tried hard to hide from her peers. The school kids reacted horribly and began bullying her about our wealth. David and I tried to encourage Victoria’s health and happiness, but the brutal bullying severely damaged her self-esteem. I later learned that Victoria felt this was the worst time in her life.

Victoria’s transition to high school made things even more challenging. She hated high school and often tried to skip her classes. Her friends were increasingly troubled kids who stole from us when they visited our home, and we knew this behavior hurt Victoria. I was so worried about Victoria’s mental health at the time that I took her to see a psychiatrist, who prescribed Xanax for her anxiety.

Over time, Victoria slowly became more and more withdrawn and stopped spending as much time with us. Some of this we chalked up to her being a typical moody teenager. One day she was lovable, and the next day she hated us. We had no idea the extent of her internal struggles and drug addiction until we read her diary after she passed. We simply didn’t know at the time how stressors like bullying, conflicts with friends and poor self-esteem made Victoria more vulnerable to risky behaviors like drug experimentation, and

we certainly didn’t know how easily her early experimentation could and would lead her to addiction and overdose.

After Victoria graduated high school, she wanted to get her own apartment. We compromised by moving her into a separate guesthouse on our property. I thought she’d have some independence, but I could still keep an eye on her. This turned out to be a fatal mistake because I had less control over what she was doing and where she was going.

I became more aware of Victoria’s drinking and drug use during this period. Then one day in 2015, Victoria thought she took too much Xanax. She didn’t think that she was going to wake up, so she sent a goodbye text to her boyfriend. But she did wake up, and she came to me for help the next day.

“Mom, I need help,” Victoria said. She asked me to take her to rehab.

And that’s where Victoria met the love of her life. He turned out to be a 26-year-old struggling with a heroin addiction. Meeting him set in motion a tragic chain of events that contributed to Victoria’s death.

David and I have learned many painful lessons since we lost Victoria, both from Victoria’s own words in her diary and from our insatiable need to educate ourselves so that we could understand how this tragedy came to pass. We simply missed the signs or underestimated their significance.

Although we cannot change the past, we can share what we have learned with other families to prevent them from experiencing a similar tragedy. This is our commitment in honor of Victoria’s life and legacy.

Publisher’s note: The pages that follow are scans of Victoria’s diary. Some pages have been omitted, and names of Victoria’s peers have been obscured for privacy. Victoria’s handwriting varies significantly, becoming harder to read the more affected she was by drugs and alcohol. In some entries, Victoria addresses her friend Korina. The two girls sometimes passed their diaries back and forth.

The following page is the cover from Victoria’s actual diary. Her diary begins in early 2012 when she was 16 years old. Victoria had just changed to a new school. She writes about her close friendships and dutifully logs homework assignments. Soon, she begins to talk about drug use and obsessing about her weight.

Friendships suffer, physical problems manifest and Victoria’s emotional challenges worsen. As the diary goes on, Victoria vacillates between happy, healthy teen (“What are we going to be for Halloween?”) to troubled teen (“What’s the point when there ain’t nothing to it?”).

Victoria’s diary is raw, unfiltered, beautiful and heartbreaking—just like her life. Her words, feelings, thoughts and struggles live within all of us. Perhaps our beloved Victoria had a much bigger purpose than any of us could have ever imagined.

This is Victoria’s voice … in her own words.

Afterword by David Siegel, Victoria’s Voice, Second Edition

It’s been eight years since we lost Victoria—our beautiful, kindhearted dreamer—to a drug overdose.

In the immediate wake of her passing, we channeled our grief into educating ourselves about the drug crisis and advocating for policy change at the national level, which included helping pass the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Jackie and I also created our family foundation, the Victoria Siegel Foundation, to honor Victoria’s life and educate others about the seriousness of the opioid epidemic in our country.

By 2019, however, it became clear to us that we needed to do more to save lives and that we simply couldn’t do it alone. We established the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, that year to foster a community of dedicated changemakers who could do more in the fight to end the drug crisis. With strong support from our community, Victoria’s Voice has developed programming to prevent addiction through awareness and education—and to save lives from drug overdose.


To date, more than 500,000 parents and children have been impacted by our Victoria’s Voice educational programming. In 2022 alone, our powerful live speaker presentations were delivered to nearly 126,000 students across 27 states, and our virtual video curriculum was deployed in 10 schools, two juvenile diversion programs and one women’s prison. Our Vital Signs video series for parents and caregivers was also shared with thousands of parents

through our partners and social media.


Naloxone awareness and access are fundamental to our mission at

Victoria’s Voice. Approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in 1971, naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It is a critical lifesaving intervention that buys victims approximately 90 minutes to access treatment at an emergency care facility.

Although naloxone is safe, many people are unaware of its existence and potential to save lives, and it is certainly not readily accessible in our communities. Given the fact that nearly 40 percent of all overdoses are witnessed and 50 percent happen at home, this needs to change.4 People are dying from ignorance.

When Victoria overdosed in 2015, first responders located her faint pulse. She was still alive. But sadly, they were not carrying naloxone, and Victoria passed away before she could reach emergency care. This still weighs on my mind after all these years. If Victoria had been given naloxone, I believe that she would still be alive today.

Victoria’s Voice is therefore committed to raising awareness and ensuring access to naloxone nationwide to prevent other families from experiencing the devastating loss that our family did. Just like every home and establishment has a first aid kit, every home, school, youth center, church, dormitory and other public building should have naloxone on hand as well. Add a box to your medicine cabinet and carry one with you. It just might save the life of a family member, a friend, your neighbor or even an absolute stranger on the street.

Everyone should learn to recognize the signs of overdose:

If you suspect that someone is overdosing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following guidance:

You can purchase naloxone in the form of a nasal spray or an intramuscular injection—similar to an EpiPen for allergic reactions—at any pharmacy without a prescription and regardless of age. In some states, naloxone is free to everyone. In others, it is only free to law enforcement or people who actively abuse drugs. To learn how to access naloxone in your state, visit

You can also help save lives in your community and beyond by lending your voice to this cause:


Years after Victoria’s passing, we find ourselves facing a once inconceivable reality in which staggering rates of drug use, the proliferation of fentanyl and increasingly sophisticated drug trafficking are threatening the very existence of the next generation of Americans.

Victoria’s Voice has therefore committed to taking the lead in raising awareness and sounding the alarm about the heightened risk for our children and families nationwide.

Current statistics paint a stark picture. According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths in the United States increased by 30 percent from 2019 to 2020 and by 15 percent from 2020 to 2021, which resulted in more than 100,000 deaths in 2021 alone. The latest provisional CDC data predict more than 108,000 overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending November 2022. That represents nearly 300 deaths a day, the equivalent of a Boeing 757 crashing

every single day.

Many of those lost to drug overdose are increasingly our youth. Among those ages 14 to 18, overdose deaths increased by 94 percent from 2019 to 2020 and by 20 percent from 2020 to 2021. Overdose from fentanyl also earned a new title as the leading cause of death for people ages 18 to 45 in our country, and children ages 14 and younger became the fastest growing age demographic for overdose death by fentanyl.

Every life lost is a loss to our nation. We could be losing the person who might have found the cure for cancer. There could be inventions we will never experience, movies we will never see, books we will never read and music we will never hear. Prevention education is critical to preventing further loss.


The typical and well-documented road to addiction does not start with heroin or cocaine use. Nobody plans to have a substance use disorder when they grow up.

For most people, the journey starts early in their preteen or teenage years with alcohol, nicotine and marijuana use. While there are many gateways to addiction—including trauma, low self-esteem, the need to fit in and genetics—nicotine, alcohol and marijuana (cannabis) create biological changes in the developing brain that can hasten the journey. Nicotine is a stimulant, alcohol is a depressant and marijuana is a hallucinogen. All three have been shown to negatively affect brain development in their own unique ways. Given the prevalence of underage use and the known biological harm to the brain, nicotine, alcohol and marijuana have been deemed the Tri-Fecta Gateway to addiction.

This is the biggest threat to our children and the best awareness education we can provide to caregivers. Unfortunately, many people are quick to assert that marijuana is safe and legal in many states and that experimentation with nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol is a rite of passage for teens. What we must remember above the rhetoric are the sobering facts and statistics:


Exacerbating these issues is hemp, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that was legalized by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. Savvy players in the drug market have learned to circumvent existing drug regulations by using toxic chemicals to convert cannabidiol (CBD) in hemp into a growing list of psychoactive synthetic cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC, delta-10 THC, THC-O and HHC. Although these synthetic cannabinoids produce the same effects as delta-9 THC in marijuana, they continue to blur the lines between what is legal or not due to gaps and conflicts in federal and state regulations. Our children can now purchase products containing these substances online and in convenience stores, gas stations and specialty stores advertising them as natural or therapeutic products. This needs to stop.

It is imperative that your children know that synthetic cannabinoids are not natural, not harmless and not the same as marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), synthetic cannabinoids are not safe and may have a greater effect on the brain than marijuana—at times proving even more dangerous or life-threatening. They can be addictive and are known to cause concerning mental and physical health issues, including vomiting, violent behavior and suicidal thoughts.


Another alarming trend is putting our youth at an even higher risk. According to the CDC, vaping (e-cigarettes and other vaping devices), whether nicotine, marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids, has soared among middle and high school students:

And while many view vaping as a safer, less addictive alternative

to cigarettes, emerging data suggest otherwise:

In order to change the trajectory of the drug epidemic in our country, we must first recognize the enormous influence that these drugs have on our children and their future selves. Hard core drug use is almost never the starting point. It is the tragic end to an all-too-common story that starts with youth experimentation with more socially acceptable substances.

The current proliferation of synthetic fentanyl makes this story of youth experimentation even more frightening. Fentanyl is increasingly found in marijuana and vaping products, street drugs like cocaine and meth, and counterfeit prescription pills posing as Adderall, Xanax and other medications. For children today, one bad decision could be the last decision they ever make.


Fentanyl is a highly addictive synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Every day, more than 150 people die from an overdose due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

The DEA, like many others, is working hard to alert Americans about the increase in fentanyl-laced counterfeit prescription pills. These pills are primarily pressed by Mexican drug cartels to look like legal prescription medications such as Adderall, Percocet and Xanax. Of the fake prescription pills seized and analyzed by the DEA in 2022, six out of 10 contained a lethal dose of fentanyl. These are not good odds for our children.

The DEA created their One Pill Can Kill campaign to raise awareness that a child’s first experimentation could be the one that kills them. An Adderall or Xanax pill they acquired from a trusted friend might not be the trusted product they expected. One pill can kill.

To make matters even worse, research has shown that xylazine, an anesthetic used on animals, is being mixed with fentanyl to prolong its effects—and it’s making it even deadlier.

It is important to know that drug mixing, whether intentional or not, is now common. In 2019, nearly 50 percent of all overdose deaths in the United States involved multiple drugs. Such polysubstance use is always unsafe. Its effects may be stronger, more unpredictable and more deadly, especially for our inexperienced, unsuspecting youth.

Let your children know that the only safe drug is one that comes from a prescription bottle with their name on it, as prescribed for them by their health care provider. Anything else could be laced with fentanyl or some other unknown poison.


Sometimes the biggest threat to our children can be found much closer to home. You should think of your pill bottles as being as deadly as a loaded gun. Keep them locked up. If you have pills that you are no longer taking, get them safely out of your home.

Leaving leftover medication on a bathroom counter or in a medicine cabinet gives your kids or their friends easy access to these drugs. Prescription medication must also be disposed of properly. Never flush medication down a toilet because treatment companies cannot completely filter these substances out of our drinking water. Contact your local pharmacy or police department for information on medication disposal programs in your area or visit to take advantage of the DEA’s bi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.