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Rainbow Fentanyl Scourge is Targeting ‘Kids and Young Adults,’ DEA Warns

Brightly colored fentanyl pressed into pills or in a chalky form—called rainbow fentanyl—were found in 18 states, a press release from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns, and drug dealers getting “kids and young adults” hooked early on.

Fentanyl, and other dangerous drugs like it, were only a matter time before they became as well-known and popularized in the same way that designer drugs do: with colorfully designed pills and in different forms.

“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,” said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “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.”

While even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) admits there has never been a fatal overdose recorded from cannabis alone—fentanyl is a completely different story, as it has a knack for stopping breathing.

There’s no other way to look at what’s happening in the United States with opioids as anything other than an epidemic. In fact, according to NIDA’s data, deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone—primarily fentanyl—continued their steady death march with 56,516 overdose deaths reported in 2020.

This number of 56,526 deaths is close to the total U.S. casualties in Vietnam War, as recorded by the Defense Casualty Analysis System. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 107.622 drug overdoses for 2021. 66% of these deaths were related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. (The CDC also says an overdose from cannabis is “unlikely.”)

A fatal overdose can result from taking in excess of fentanyl. It is likely. The DEA’s announcement reminds us that fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. This means that 2mg of fentanyl can cause death, which is equivalent to 10-20 grains of table salt. Obviously, street drugs don’t provide lab testing results—and the margin for error is as slim as 2 mg.

Multnomah County Sheriff/ Courtesy Drug Enforcement Administration

But the opioid epidemic has many sides. There are people suffering from high levels of pain complaining that they have been denied opioids or labeled as addicts.

The DEA announce blames cartels on the increase in rainbow fentanyl. They explain that the majority of fentanyl found in the United States comes from two criminal drug networks, the Sinaloa Cartel or the Jalisco Old Generation Cartel (CJNG).

Yahoo! News was told by Uttam Dihillon, the former acting administrator at the DEA. News, September 1st: Uttam Dhillon, former acting administrator of the DEA told Yahoo!

“Even seeing just one lab in Mexico pressing pills was something unique that we were seeing. And this was only a few years ago,” Dhillon told Yahoo! News. “Now we’re seeing literally a million pills being seized in Los Angeles, for example, just a few months ago. So the growth has been massive.”

With FAQ sheets and public awareness campaigns, the DEA has reacted.

Launched in September 2021, the ”One Pill Can Kill” Public Awareness Campaign was launched by the DEA with a goal to educate Americans about the dangers of fake pills, which can be disguised as a less dangerous pill or in other ways. The DEA also provides more resources for parents that can be found on DEA’s Fentanyl Awareness page.