The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said it has observed an “alarming” trend of brightly-colored fentanyl made to look like candy that is being used to attract children and young people.
The agency said its law enforcement partners began seizing brightly colored “rainbow fentanyl” earlier this month. This new form of fentanyl has been seized in 18 states so far.
Rainbow fentanyl is being sold in multiple forms, according to the DEA, including as pills, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk. While some reports have claimed that different colors indicate differing levels of potency, laboratory testing has not found a correlation.
“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.
Authorities recently made two seizures of rainbow fentanyl resembling sidewalk chalk in the Portland, Ore., area. Another large batch of the drug was recently recovered in West Virginia, where authorities seized about 15,000 multi-colored pills from one individual.
Similar seizures have also been made in California and Washington.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often mixed in with other drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, with buyers often unaware that they are ingesting it.
In recent years, synthetic opioids like fentanyl have become the most common drugs associated with overdose deaths in the U.S.
Of the more than 107,000 overdose deaths in the U.S. that were reported in 2021, 66 percent were due to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.