According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during the 12-month period ending in April 2021 more than 100,000 Americans died from synthetic opioids. Between May and September of this year, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents around the country seized more than 10 million fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of powder, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in September.
“I read too many reports on too many cases, including too many young people who ended up dying after taking just one pill laced with fentanyl, often disguised as something else,” Garland said in a statement.
And while much fentanyl comes across the border with Mexico, it can be made in labs anywhere, rather than being grown in fields like cocaine and heroin, Jonathan Caulkins, a professor of operations research and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told CBS News.
“How the heck is law enforcement supposed to find a few metric tons in an economy that trades megatons of raw materials?” he asked.
Now the DEA has issued a warning about so-called “rainbow” fentanyl, bright, multi-colored fentanyl pills that look similar to candy or sidewalk chalk, potentially appealing to young people.
“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 the announcement.
Although some parents were concerned that these fake colorful pills could end up in Halloween candy, most experts said there was little to worry about from that aspect.
“Fentanyl costs money,” Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek told WPTV. “Drug dealers aren’t just going to take fentanyl and arbitrarily put it in the [trick-or-treat] bags and send it out on the street for kids.
“What we do worry about is our high school kids and college-age kids going to parties, being exposed to something that’s candy-like, but is actually fentanyl,” he said.
No matter what color it comes in, it’s potentially deadly. A synthetic opioid approved for treating severe pain, it is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. But in the illegal drug market, it is often mixed with heroin or cocaine—with or without the user’s knowledge—to increase its euphoric effects.
So it’s vital that parents be aware of how to help their kids avoid it. The DEA has resources for parents here. https://www.dea.gov/fentanylawareness