Grieving Mom of American Idol Semi_freckle removal boots

Alexandra Rockey Fleming·4 min read
Fentanyl Project rollout
Fentanyl Project rollout

courtesy Tiffany Robertson

In her teens, Tiffany Robertson dreamed her soulful singing voice would carry her to stardom — she won dozens of talent competitions and twice made it to the semi-final auditions of American Idol, says her mother, Virginia Krieger.

But Robertson's life was cut short when the talented vocalist from northeastern Ohio was hanging out with friends and took drugs mixed with the lethal opioid fentanyl. She died of an overdose at the age of 26 on Feb. 2, 2015.

"She was a young mother and the light of my life," Krieger tells PEOPLE of her late daughter. "To lose her that way was a shock and we're still suffering from her loss."

More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year — the majority of them caused by fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid that is commonly mixed with street drugs like heroin and cocaine and also found in counterfeit medications sold on social media, experts say.

As co-president of Lost Voices of Fentanyl, Krieger, 56, now spends her days doing anti-drug advocacy work, supporting parents bereaved by fentanyl deaths and raising awareness about the proliferation of the cheap and readily available synthetic opioid.

"The contamination with fentanyl of commonly used party drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy has moved the opioid crisis into a whole new population of young people," says Krieger.

Drug dealers and manufacturers now secretly mix in fentanyl, which is cheaper than other drugs and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"It's the new paradigm," says Krieger.

For more about the faces of America's fentanyl epidemic and the fight to end it, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

This new form of drug use entangles people from all walks of life and all types of drugs, including not just addicts but also people of all age groups who use drugs casually or recreationally.

"Parents need to warn their children that any recreational drug use puts them at high risk of exposing themselves to fentanyl," she says. "A large number of victims are not even aware they were consuming fentanyl."


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