Deadly ‘rainbow fentanyl’ drug targets youth in 18 US states, DEA warns

The drug is brightly colored like candy, potentially a ploy to sell the dangerous drugs to children and young adults, the DEA said.

Packets of fentanyl mostly in powder form and methamphetamine, which US Customs and Border Protection say they seized from a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, is on display during a news conference at the Port of Nogales, Arizona, US, January 31, 2019. (photo credit: COURTESY US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Packets of fentanyl mostly in powder form and methamphetamine, which US Customs and Border Protection say they seized from a truck crossing into Arizona from Mexico, is on display during a news conference at the Port of Nogales, Arizona, US, January 31, 2019.
(photo credit: COURTESY US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration warned Americans last month about the spread of a new form of the deadly drug fentanyl.

The drug, called "rainbow fentanyl" by the media, has been seized by DEA agents in pill, powder and block forms in 18 states.

The drug is brightly colored like candy, potentially a ploy to sell the dangerous drugs to children and young adults, the DEA said.

“Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous,” the DEA noted.

A man living on the streets displays what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, California, US, February 27, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)A man living on the streets displays what he says is the synthetic drug fentanyl in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, California, US, February 27, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

What is fentanyl?

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine,” according to the DEA.

The drug has been a major driving force of the ongoing opioid crisis that has killed 107,622 Americans, according to the CDC, 66% of whose deaths are attributed to synthetic opioids.

“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

Drug poisonings are the leading cause of death for Americans between age 18 and 45, the DEA noted.

“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 among 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.”

More information for parents and community members in the US can be found on the DEA's Fentanyl Awareness page.

The DEA advises anyone who encounters fentanyl in any form to avoid touching it and to immediately call 911.