Three years ago, Sophia Walsh was returning home after a fun weekend with friends river rafting in Boone.
On the drive back, she stopped at an acquaintance’s house to use the bathroom and get something to drink. An innocent act that had deadly consequences.
The water bottle she found in the refrigerator was poisoned with a dissolved fentanyl pill, according to investigators. An autopsy report found Walsh had 8.4 nanograms of fentanyl in her system, enough to kill four people.
Walsh overdosed on the drug. She was 24 years old.
Her family and friends remember the Apex High School and Appalachian State graduate as a passionate foodie, chef and nature lover, often photographing animals, plants and flowers.
“This individual did not have naloxone in their home and did not call 911,” said her mother, Barbara, in an interview. “It was not Sophia’s choice to die, and it was not her choice to ingest fentanyl.”
Since her daughter’s death, Barbara Walsh, has been raising awareness about fentanyl emergencies and working to increase the availability of the nasal spray drug naloxone, or Narcan, which reverses a drug overdose in two minutes. Her organization, Fentanyl Victims of North Carolina, highlights the many young people and their families affected by losses like her own.
Some leaders and advocates say the limited access to life-saving medication in schools should be expanded. Beyond school resource officers, advocates say, teachers, staff, school nurses and even students should have access to and be trained to administer the drug in case of an emergency.
“What is happening today is different than what happened 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. It’s different than when I grew up,” Walsh said. “We were able to experiment and live. Today, that’s not always the case. The stigma some people have about (drugs) is from another era.”
In Wake County, 1,499 people died from drug emergencies from 2013 to 2023, according to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics. Of that number, 867 — or 58% of the deaths — involved fentanyl. Statewide, more than 36,000 people died from drug misuse from 2000-22.
The synthetic opioid created in the 1960s is often prescribed for pain, and studies show it is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Many young people encounter fentanyl when experimenting with marijuana, Adderall, heroin, cocaine or other pills like ecstasy or Xanax.Continue reading “Resource officers are now the only ones to carry Narcan in Wake schools. Can this change?”