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DEA Warning About Brightly Colored Fentanyl Used To Target Children

By: April Carson

The DEA has recently warned the public to be on the lookout for brightly colored pills and powder versions of fentanyl, which have been affectionately nicknamed "rainbow fentanyl." According to the agency, this is a new method being used bydrug cartels in order to sell highly addictive and dangerous drugs that look like candy. This makes it especially appealing (and deadly) to children and young adults.

While fentanyl does endanger the lives of teenagers—especially if they are unaware they have taken it—some experts warn that concentrating only on the rainbow variety might overlook other equally hazardous varieties of the drug.

The danger of illicitly produced fentanyl is the same in any color, and some experts are concerned that there is too much emphasis on rainbow fentanyl's dangers. “Kids are taking pills, and some of them are dying as a result of them. This is a total distraction," says Dean Shold, co-founder of the non-profit FentCheck, which distributes fentanyl test strips and drug education. "I think we need to be really clear that the issue is not the color of the pills.”

Another concern is that the DEA hasn't provided evidence that the hues are used to entice children. For years, fentanyl has been available in a variety of colors, and some study has shown that color is one of the ways drug users determine how strong a substance is. "They're actually secure since they know what they're receiving for each color," says Jon E. Zibbell, a senior public health analyst at RTI International, a non-profit research organization dedicated to finding solutions based on science.

The DEA argues that the new education campaign is necessary because parents and caregivers may not know how to identify illicit drugs. "Many of the pills, tablets, and capsules look like candy or other children's items," said Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon in a statement.

Dr. Scott E. Hadland, a pediatrician and addiction specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School stated that if a substance is being marketed as another drug- like oxycodone or Xanax, teens may not be aware that it actually contains fentanyl. The U.S.'s illicit drug supply is incredibly dangerous due to the fact that substances are mixed together without people knowing, including deadly drugs such as xylazine (an animal tranquilizer) and benzodiazepines.

Because fentanyl is already widely available and multi-colored drugs present a higher risk of overdose due to the combined effects, Hadland believes that this could be an issue for young people. He voices his concern by saying, “Fentanyl is already everywhere in the market. I don’t know that this is going to be some new thing that brings in teens to use who had not previously been using." Although it has yet to be seen if multi-colored drugs will lures teenagers into trying fentanyl for the first time, Hadland remains weary as overdoses continue pile up.

Kids are vulnerable to the dangers of fentanyl

According to an analysis published in JAMA in April, the number of annual overdose deaths among 14- to 18-year-olds has increased rapidly in recent years, jumping from around 490 in 2019 to nearly 950 just one year later. Furthermore, a greater proportion of these teen overdoses involve fentanyl; according to data from 2021, this drug was involved more than two thirds of all adolescent overdose cases.

Joseph Palamar, an associate professor at New York University Langone and expert in drug-use epidemiology says that it has become more common for manufacturers to press fentanyl to resemble prescription drugs. Many fentanyl pills are blue and pressed with the logo M30 to resemble the drug oxycodone, for example. In a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in May, Palamar and colleagues found that the portion of fentanyl seized in pill form rose from 13.8% in 2018 to 29.2% in 2021. "This is a public health emergency. It's an absolute crisis," Palamar said. "And if we don't start paying attention to what's going on, we're going to have a lot more young people dying."

The safety of your Kids is always a priority

According to Palamar, it is crucial to store all drugs in a location where young children cannot access them. “I do not know if manufacturers or dealers design for these new pills to be appealing specifically to kids," Palamor states, "however, that does not change the fact that they are attractive to children--and this attractivity is what worries me." He goes on explain his concerns saying: "if one of these fentanyl pills is left within easy reach by an adult --whether it be a parent, sibling or friend-- and then eaten accidentally by someone else who mistakes it for candy; that would be devastating."

Keeping an open line with teenagers about the hazards of illicit drugs might help them. Teens should be aware that fentanyl-laced pills may be obtained illegally, and even a little amount of fentanyl can be deadly. If they see any brightly-colored pills, they should never take them and should instead tell an adult immediately.

Parents should also consider keeping the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan on hand, which can save someone’s life. It's similar to a fire extinguisher in that you always want to have it readily available but never actually need to use it.

Also, parents should educate their kids about the dangers of drugs, even if they may look like candy. It's important to have these conversations early and often, so kids know that they can come to their parents with any questions or problems they may have.

If you think someone has overdosed on opioids, call 911 immediately and administer Narcan if available. Symptoms of an overdose include slow or shallow breathing, limp body, and/or loss of consciousness.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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