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The DEA is warning of brightly colored fentanyl used to target young Americans

rainbow fentanyl pills
In August, the DEA and its law enforcement partners began seizing the deadly drug in 18 states, the agency said.

Dubbed “rainbow" fentanyl, this trend appears to be a new method used by Mexican drug cartels to sell the deadly drug made to look like candy to children.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is advising the public of an influx of colorful "rainbow” fentanyl designed to appeal to young people, officials say.

In August, the DEA and its law enforcement partners began seizing the candy-looking drug in 18 states, the agency said. It has been found in multiple forms, including pills, powder and even blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% of those deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Fentanyl in the U.S. is primarily supplied by two Mexico-based criminal drug networks, the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG), officials say.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram says rainbow fentanyl “is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction among kids and young adults.”

She adds: “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 a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just 2 milligrams of fentanyl is considered a lethal dose.

Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s testing that this is the case. Every color, shape and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous, officials say.

This week, the CDC reported a drop of nearly a year in U.S. life expectancy, with drug overdoses cited as the second largest contributor. (COVID was the primary reason.)

Drug poisonings are the leading killer of Americans ages 18 to 45.

In September 2021, DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of fake pills. Additional resources for parents and the community can be found on DEA's Fentanyl Awareness page.

If you encounter fentanyl in any form, do not handle it and call 911 immediately.

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