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Orange County Parents Pay It Forward After Social Media Star’s Fentanyl Death

Orange County Parents Pay It Forward After Social Media Star’s Fentanyl Death

Cooper Noriega. (Courtesy of the Noriega Family)

John Fredricks

John Fredricks

7/26/2023

Updated: 7/28/2023

For TikTok star and model Cooper Noriega, carrying Narcan on the streets of Los Angeles seemed like a great idea given the amount of fentanyl overdoses occurring in the city.
But on June 9, 2022, the 19-year-old would breathe his last breath. His body was found in a parking lot in Burbank, California—with unused Narcan in his pocket.
“He was on his way to a bible study but unfortunately stopped in Burbank to purchase a Xanax from a trusted person he knew,” Cooper’s father Harold Noriega, 67, of Laguna Beach, California, told The Epoch Times. “My son would never make it to that bible study.”
Cooper Noriega. (Instagram/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Cooper Noriega. (Instagram/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

He described his son as being a popular, athletic, good-looking young man who attended Laguna Beach and JSerra high schools.
Before his death, Cooper was a “TikTok star” collaborating with other popular content creators and musicians, along with sharing fashion trends and skateboarding tricks.
At the time of his death, he had over 1 million followers on the social media outlet. The number has now grown close to 3.5 million.
“You have seen the Fentanyl posters. It just takes a dose the size of several grains of sand to kill a person, to end your life,” his father said. “If we look back upon his death a year ago and his mental health struggles, his ‘go-to’ to feel better about things was Xanax.”
The coroner deemed his death an “accidental overdose.”
Mr. Noriega said he was at a barbeque at a friend’s house when he got a call and subsequent message on his cell phone from a known number. It was from the Los Angeles Medical Examiner.
“We had a really bad feeling and immediately left the party to follow up,” he said. “The pill Coop took had a lethal dose of Fentanyl in it, and it ended my boy’s life that night.”

Impact After Death

A few days before his death Cooper had started a chat channel on the messaging platform Discord called “Coop’s Advice,” a page centered on mental health.
“He started a channel on the Discord platform to start a safe place for kids like him to be able to talk about their mental health and their addiction issues,” Mr. Noriega said. “And while it started with about 100 people in it, there are now thousands of people around the world from Uganda to Ukraine.”
For the Noriega family, the channel has been a breath of fresh air amid the greatest tragedy they have ever faced.
According to Mr. Noriega, he, his wife Treva, and daughter Parker, receive consistent updates on the positive impacts both teens and adults have been making in their lives since being able to share their struggles on it.
Seeing Cooper’s impact on others, even in death,  and combining it with his love for fashion, they have since launched a clothing line where 100 percent of proceeds are used to operate the now-formed nonprofit Coop’s Advice Foundation, which “pursues Cooper’s vision” in organizing community events and using social influence to empower a mental health movement.
“It’s not just kids in this. It’s also adults that are choosing to make positive and healthy choices now … versus making negative and unhealthy self-destructive choices,” Mr. Noriega said. “This is because of the existence of what our Cooper created, and its impact is truly amazing to me.”

The Battle Forward

Despite the hope the “Coop’s Advice” page and foundation give the Noriega family, the loss of their son and brother is one his father described as “overwhelming.”
“The first six months after Coop’s death was day-to-day survival for us,” Mr. Noriega said. “The loss was numbing and there was not really a playbook we could follow to compartmentalize our grief.”
By December of last year, his grief reached a point where he contemplated suicide.
“I thought God, what am I supposed to do?” Mr. Noriega said. “Cooper’s death was not a choice for me.”
But he now credits the pathway out of his despair from God and from Cooper, himself.
He said he began to find opportunities to encourage positive mental health along with the dangers of drugs on popular podcasts.
Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents even reached out to Mr. Noriega to help the agency connect with younger generations—like Z and Alpha, roughly those between 11 and 26—on the dangers of fentanyl and illicit pill purchases.
“They shared that they know their position with these younger generations and that they know that many do not want to listen to the agency given their position as ‘cops,’” Mr. Noriega said. “So, when they asked me to help get their message out, I said ‘absolutely.’”
As the Noriega family works to continue the positive legacy of Cooper, a photo of him now hangs within the lobby area of DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, along with thousands of others who have perished in America’s fentanyl crisis.
California continues to lead the nation in drug overdose deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Noriega family encourages those struggling with mental health and drug addiction to log on to the Coop’s Advice page at https://discord.com/invite/coopsadvice
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John Fredricks

John Fredricks

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John Fredricks is a California-based journalist for The Epoch Times. His reportage and photojournalism features have been published in a variety of award-winning publications around the world.

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