The Drug Enforcement Administration is warning the public of an alarming trend: colorful fentanyl tablets that look like candy.
The street name for the pills is “Rainbow,” and the DEA says it appears to be how drug cartels are marketing the addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl to children and young people.
Rainbow fentanyl has already been spotted in New England, said Jon Delena, Deputy Special Agent in charge of DEA New England Field Division. He said the pills and other forms of the deadly drug are being mass produced by the Sinaloa drug cartel and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion “at rates we have never seen before.”
“Now these cartels don’t care that 107,622 Americans died of a drug overdose last year,” said Delena. “Their model is simple. It’s relentless expansion, and they do that through widespread addiction. They are constantly trying to find new ways to addict Americans.”
In August 2022, DEA and law enforcement partners seized “brightly-colored fentanyl” in multiple forms, including pills, powder and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk, in 18 states.
Delena said New England was the first region of the country to seeing an explosion of fentanyl, and the problem has only gotten worse. “We know all it takes is two milligrams of fentanyl to kill the average person,” he said. “In fact, four out of ten pills that we are seizing contain a deadly dose of fentanyl.”
Kelly Dougherty, Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, said the department has offered the overdose-reversal drug Narcan, as well training on overdose prevention to all Vermont schools and colleges About two dozen schools now have Narcan on hand in case of an overdose.
“Some schools have taken us up on that and others have not,” she said, adding that Narcan should be in every school.
“I think it’s something that people should think of like band-aids and antiseptic,” she said, “that they should have it in their first aid kits and be prepared to use it, in an event that a student overdoses.”
In September 2021, DEA launched the ‘One Pill Can Kill‘ public awareness campaign to educate Americans about the dangers of fake pills.