‘Rainbow’ fentanyl warning: DEA says brightly colored pills, powder used to target young users

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning Tuesday, alerting the public to an “alarming” trend of brightly colored fentanyl made to look like candy that is being used to entice children and youth.

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According to the agency, “rainbow” fentanyl is sold in various forms, including pills, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk, The Hill reported.

“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 stated.

The new form of fentanyl was first detected in the U.S. earlier this month and has been seized in 18 states to date, The Hill reported.

“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,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram stated.

According to the agency, the synthetic opioid is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, meaning just two milligrams of the drug – the equivalent of 10-15 grains of table salt – is considered a lethal dose.

“Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder,” the DEA stated.

Authorities in Portland, Oregon, recently made two seizures of rainbow fentanyl resembling sidewalk chalk, while about 15,000 multi-colored fentanyl pills were seized from an individual in West Virginia. Similar seizures have been made in California and Washington state, The Hill reported.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 108,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl were responsible for 66% of those deaths.