What Parents Need To Know About Rainbow Fentanyl

Authorities are concerned this type of fentanyl will particularly appeal to children and teens.

Syringe with hypodermic needle abstract.
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Authorities are warning parents about rainbow-colored fentanyl on the market after officials in multiple states have seized pills.

The colorful fentanyl pills look like candy, and Michael Humphries, a port director in Arizona, tweeted that the appearance could be an attempt to target youth users after border patrol seized more than 15,000 pills last week. Authorities in St. Louis, West Virginia, California, Washington, D.C., and Oregon have also found it.

After finding more than 800 fentanyl pills and four grams of colored powered fentanyl, officials also raised concerns about why this version of the deadly drug could be particularly harmful to young people.

"Deputies are particularly concerned about rainbow fentanyl getting into the hands of young adults or children, who mistake the drug for something else, such as candy or a toy, or those who may be willing to try the drug due to its playful coloring," the sheriff's office in Portland said in a news release. "The powdered fentanyl found during this investigation resembles the color and consistency of sidewalk chalk."

Though rainbow-colored fentanyl may just be making headlines, it's not new. Jennifer Lofland, field intelligence manager for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's D.C. Division, said it's been in the D.C. area for about 18 months, according to a report from the local Fox.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid sometimes prescribed for severe pain, is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse. In 2021, more than 71,000 of the estimated 80,816 opioid overdose deaths involved a synthetic opioid, primarily fentanyl, according to CDC data.

Morgan Gire, a district attorney in Placer County, Calif., clarified in a Facebook post that all fentanyl is dangerous and deadly, regardless of its form or color. But he's also worried about the appeal rainbow-colored fentanyl will have with youth.

Gire also called on people to be open with children instead of shaming them for any challenges they may be having.

"Our biggest tool we have against this epidemic is to open the lines of communication," Gire said. "We need to remove the stigma surrounding issues that are affecting our kids today and what mechanisms they are using to cope with those issues."

Experts suggest allowing conversations to happen naturally rather than having a formal sit-down conversation about drug use. A news report of a celebrity seeking treatment or a character on a TV show battling a substance abuse issue may spark a conversation about what your child currently knows about drug use.

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