A new, life-threatening substance, a tainted batch, or a deadly cocktail. Friends are dying all around us. No one believes it can happen to them — yet it does. Five years ago, when we were in middle school, there were five overdose deaths in a three-month period in our school communities and no one did anything in response — not the schools, the parents, or the kids. Why? The stigma. People are terrified by the threat of the opioid crisis, but even more afraid of the stigma surrounding it. A group of us started talking about these tragedies. Small conversations turned into getting together informally, which morphed into monthly meetings. We shared our sorrows and fears. But, mostly, we shared our stories. Some of us were kids experiencing the shocking deaths of schoolmates, or watching friends or siblings headed down the path of addiction. Some of us had parents in recovery, or family members in active addiction. We had one thing in common — we all knew someone afflicted by addiction or overdose and we were terrified we could be next. BLAKE AND NIKKI:


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