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DEA Warning: Rainbow Fentanyl

DEA Warns of ‘Rainbow’ Fentanyl, a ‘Brightly Colored,’ Candy-Like Pill Made to Appeal to Young People

The lethal tablets were seized in 18 states last month.

candylike pink, green, yellow, purple pill tablets
  • The DEA is raising awareness of “brightly colored” rainbow fentanyl tablets, a candy-like substance that drug traffickers are using to “drive addiction” among young people.
  • The DEA seized the substance from 18 states in August alone.
  • Below, experts share what to be on alert for, and what to do if you encounter the drug.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Association (DEA) is urging parents to be aware of rainbow fentanyl, a deathly opioid that drug traffickers are using to “drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement.

In August alone, the DEA and law enforcement seized the brightly-colored tablets in 18 states.

What is rainbow fentanyl?

Firstly, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine, per the DEA.

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“Rainbow fentanyl is a drug in the form of a pill or powder that is brightly colored to look like candy and appeal to children and young people,” explains Danelle Fisher, M.D., F.A.A.P., pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. The DEA added that it’s also sold in blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

There have been claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, but the DEA said that isn’t the case, according to their lab testing. “Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous,” the statement said.

Should parents be concerned around Halloween?

Ahead of Halloween, local authorities are warning parents to keep a close eye on trick-or-treat baskets, as just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose, per the DEA.

“Any candy-looking substance will get a lot of attention as Halloween nears, so parents should be on the lookout and kids should be reminded never to eat unpackaged candy without having parents inspect it first,” adds Dr. Fisher.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 56,000 deaths involving synthetic opioids occurred in the U.S. in 2020, which increased the relative death rate by over 56% compared to 2019.

If you encounter rainbow fentanyl at any point, both the DEA and Fisher advise not handling it and calling the police immediately.

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