Poi­son Pill

Zion Wil­liams-Far­rell was 14 when he took a Xanax with a friend while play­ing video games. He had no idea it was laced with fen­tanyl. He died in his sleep. The rise of ac­ci­den­tal teen opi­oid overdoses

Toronto Life - - Contents - By Lau­ren McKeon

Zion Wil­liams-Far­rell was 14 when he took a Xanax while play­ing video games with a friend. He had no idea it was laced with fen­tanyl. He died in his sleep. The rise of teen opi­oid overdoses

At 14 years old, Zion Wil­liams-Far­rell was dis­cov­er­ing what it meant to be cool. As a new Grade 9 stu­dent at St. Mary’s High School in Kitch­ener, he fol­lowed an un­wa­ver­ing morn­ing rou­tine: shower, hair, clothes, cologne. Of­ten, he’d wear red, his favourite colour, and he’d be­gun pulling a vi­sor over his curly hair. He had a shiny stud in his left ear. A ded­i­cated football player from age 10, Zion car­ried a stick of de­odor­ant in ev­ery bag—some­thing his mother, Jaimie, and older sis­ter, Tae­johnna, teased him about. To him, style wasn’t just about look­ing good, but also about smelling good. He lifted weights re­li­giously, work­ing hard to main­tain his six-pack. In the class­room, fo­cus­ing was a strug­gle for him, but for the good-na­tured, hand­some kid with a chill vibe, pop­u­lar­ity came easy.

Around his friends, Zion some­times swore and acted tough, but never at home. There, he doted on his five-yearold brother, Noah, dili­gently com­pleted his chores, cheered on his mother’s ef­forts to be health­ier and do one more sit-up. Jaimie Far­rell, a sales as­so­ciate at Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret, raised her kids largely on her own. Zion’s fa­ther had moved to Cal­gary for work when Zion was 10, and the boy saw him­self as the man of the house—of­ten adopt­ing his fa­ther’s pro­tec­tive man­ner­isms. He’d ad­mon­ish Noah for stand­ing too close to the street, or for stray­ing too far from his side. When­ever Jaimie took her chil­dren out for din­ner, she’d al­ways have to tell Zion to re­lax and stop fuss­ing over his lit­tle brother; she could look after Noah, and Zion could be a kid.

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