The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a formal warning to the public about the candy-colored “rainbow fentanyl” that is popping up in cities across the nation.
In a public announcement Tuesday, the DEA warned the public to be aware of the “emerging trend” of colorful fentanyl pills appearing across the nation. The drug is available “in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk,” and the DEA noted that drug overdoses are the leading cause of death among Americans between ages 18 and 45.
“The Drug Enforcement Administration is advising the public of an alarming emerging trend of colorful fentanyl available across the United States,” the DEA said in its press release. “In August 2022, DEA and our law enforcement partners seized brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states.”
“Dubbed ‘rainbow fentanyl’ in the media, this trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people,” the release continued.
On August 17, authorities at the port of entry in Nogales, Arizona, seized more than 15,000 fentanyl pills that were strapped to a person’s leg. The day prior, authorities seized more than 250,000 brightly colored fentanyl pills, as well as 11 pounds of heroin and 10 pounds of methamphetamine.
Such pills have been seized in other areas across the country. In areas such as Washington, D.C., DEA officials have been seizing similar pills for 18 months. In Multnomah County, Oregon, the sheriff’s office found several grams of rainbow fentanyl in the shape of sidewalk chalk recently as well.
Fentanyl is primarily trafficked by two criminal networks, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, according to the DEA.
“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram in the agency’s press release. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”
Fentanyl is one of the strongest synthetic opioids in circulation; Fentanyl, “is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose,” according to the DEA.
It is impossible to tell how much fentanyl is concentrated in a particular pill or powder sample. DEA reported that, “Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.” the agency said.
CDC data showed that 107,622 Americans died of overdoses in 2021, which is the largest number on record.
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