DEA Warns Parents About Brightly Colored Fentanyl That Targets Young People

"Rainbow Fentanyl" comes in different colors, shapes, and forms — and it is extremely dangerous.

A bag of rainbow fentanyl pills — colorful versions of the drug are showing up across the nation.

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and the most powerful and most frightening drugs involved in the epidemic is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.

Even more frightening? The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported this week that it has recovered brightly colored “rainbow fentanyl” in 18 different states across the country — a trend that puts kids and young people at risk, whether they are ingesting the drug purposefully or whether they find misplaced pills and mistaken them for candy.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

The DEA reports that the rainbow fentanyl comes in colored pills, blocks that look like sidewalk chalk, and powders, and all are dangerous.

They also say that while they heard claims that different colors represent different potency, lab testing has confirmed that that is not the case.

According to the CDC, Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are responsible for 66 percent of drug overdoses each year, accounting for over 71,000 deaths in 2021 alone. That’s almost double the number of people who died in car crashes in the same year. Drug overdoses are the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.

Marketing addictive drugs to children is not new; alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and marijuana corporations all have a history of trying to hook young users and then keep them for life. But while regulations have largely prevented products from preying on kids, though, illegal street drugs are obviously immune to advertising laws.

Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to everyone, but especially to younger users who might not know its potency and danger. Just two milligrams of fentanyl (equal to about 15 grains of salt) can be fatal, and it’s impossible to know how much is in any illegal pill or powder. As time goes on, fentanyl is being found in more and more other drugs as illegal manufacturers add it to their products for potency.

Not only are teens and young adults dying from overdoses, babies and toddlers living with opioid users are becoming victims. Four weeks ago, a California couple was charged with murder after their 15-month-old baby accessed the drug from a bedside table. Last month, two other parents faced a similar charge after their 6-year-old son ingested a blue fentanyl pill. Also last month, a father was arrested after his two-year-old found his fentanyl supply. The father, like many Americans, became addicted after being prescribed opioids for a medical reason.

If you encounter fentanyl in any form, do not handle it. Call 911.