The Drug Enforcement Administration is advising the public of an alarming emerging trend of colorful fentanyl available across the United States. In August 2022, DEA and law enforcement partners seized brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states. Dubbed “rainbow fentanyl”, this trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl to children and young people by making it look like candy.
Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case.
Every color, shape and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous. Drug poisonings are the leading killer of Americans between the ages of 18 and 45.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose. Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder.
In August, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office intercepted the shipment of 22,000 fentanyl pills and 4 pounds of meth. Around 8,000 fentanyl pills were ready to hit the streets in Sandoval County, officials said. Laura Whittenburger of Rio Rancho was arrested and taken into custody.
But illegal drugs are nothing new to New Mexico.
On Sept. 2, several police departments and federal agencies were involved in a massive, $5 million drug bust in Albuquerque that included fentanyl and heroine. Source of the drugs reportedly was the Sinaloa Cartel.
According to the CDC, 107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66 percent of those deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Fentanyl available in the United States is primarily supplied by two criminal drug networks, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
In September 2021, DEA launched the One Pill Can Kill Public Awareness Campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of fake prescription 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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