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DMX's 10-year-old daughter plans to create a docuseries on drug addiction, as fentanyl overdoses surge in adolescents

Sonovah Hillman Jr.’s father, hip-hop icon DMX, died from a drug-overdose-induced heart attack in 2021.

Sonovah Hillman Jr. with her father, DMX.
Sonovah Hillman Jr. with her father, DMX. (Courtesy of Sonovah Hillman Sr.)

Sonovah Hillman Jr., the 10-year-old daughter of hip-hop icon and Grammy-nominated rapper DMX, is using her voice to spread awareness about the dangers of fentanyl, a potent opioid that is the leading contributor to overdoses in the U.S.

In January, Sonovah announced that she plans to create a four-part documentary series to educate and spread awareness about fentanyl and drug addiction. In a YouTube video posted on Jan. 23, Sonovah says she lost her aunt and uncle, as well as her father, to drug addiction.

“Too many people of all ages are dying from fentanyl, but to the kids and teenagers, I just want to reach out and say there’s so much more we can do,” Sonovah told Yahoo News. “Drugs end all dreams. Let’s keep dreaming and keep living.”

DMX onstage at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
DMX performs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2019. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Sonovah’s father died from a drug-overdose-induced heart attack in 2021 at the age of 50. DMX spoke out often about his struggle with addiction. “I will always have a drug problem. Just because you stop getting high doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem, because it’s a constant fight every day,” he said in a 2013 episode of “Iyanla, Fix My Life.”

Over the last three years, Americans ages 10 through 19 have seen an increase in opioid deaths. “Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death for Americans from age 18 to 49,” Lisa Kugler, senior vice president of the addiction treatment locator program at Shatterproof, a nonprofit that seeks to help people struggling with addiction, told Yahoo News.

The CDC’s State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System found that average monthly overdose deaths among adolescents increased by 109% — and the deaths that involved fentanyl increased by 182% — from 2019 through 2021.

“It’s a chronic disease, very similar to other chronic diseases like hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and it’s not the person’s fault that they’ve become dependent upon the substances. It’s not a moral failing,” Kugler said.

A photo of an open prescription bottle with a label that reads fentanyl, and a smaller vial with pills spilling out of it.
Getty Images

Experts say the rise of deaths is the reason education is key, which Sonovah received when D.A.R.E., a program that teaches students about drugs through decision making, visited her school in California.

“Our officers go into the classroom, and we teach decision making using a model as it relates to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana and other drugs,” D.A.R.E. CEO Francisco Pegueros told Yahoo News.

But Pegueros said these lessons may not follow children through every level of their education. “There’s no so-called magic solution, it really needs to be a comprehensive community effort,” he said. “There needs to be a comprehensive substance abuse prevention program in every community.”

Last year, Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at UCLA, found that high-school-age teen overdoses have increased nationally, but that teenage drug use rates have actually gone down.

“Fewer teenagers are using drugs than before, we actually saw that for the first time,” he said. “Over the past few years, overdose deaths among teens are actually going up very quickly.

“This is important because overdose deaths among adults have actually been going up year after year for over 40 years,” he added. “But for most of that time, teenagers were actually kind of insulated from those increases.”

Sonovah Hillman Jr. with her dad, DMX.
Sonovah with her dad. (Courtesy of Sonovah Hillman Jr.)

Friedman said the study also found that adolescents on the West Coast were affected the most by fentanyl-related overdoses. “We also found that Native American and Latinx teens were disproportionately affected,” he said.

Since 2020, adolescents have faced an increase in fentanyl-involved deaths: Overall, the opioid has been identified in over 75% of overdose deaths in adolescents.

In comparison, other drugs contribute to deaths on a much smaller scale: “13.26% for benzodiazepines, 9.77% for methamphetamine, 7.33% for cocaine, 5.76% for prescription opioids, and 2.27% for heroin,” the 2022 study found.

With 150 people dying every day from fentanyl-related overdoses, Sonovah plans to use her experience and trauma to push for a solution.

“I’m ready to have a conversation that some adults aren’t ready to have,” she said. “My goal is to educate, spread awareness and save lives.”

She and her mother have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the production costs of the docuseries, with a goal of $250,000.

“I’m happy with all the support I’ve been getting. It feels really good. We gave ourselves 120 days to get whatever funding we can, and we’ll make it work from there,” Sonovah said.