DEA warns parents, schools to watch out for ‘rainbow fentanyl’ that looks like candy

WASHINGTON- The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued an alert about a new “rainbow fentanyl” that looks like candy and has been found in 18 states.

The trend, according to the DEA, “appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl that looks like candy to children and teenagers.”

The DEA did not respond to a request for the identity of the 18 states.

Lt. Rio Rancho Police Department spokeswoman Jacquelynn Reedy said the department had not seen rainbow fentanyl in Rio Rancho.

However, she noted that “fentanyl is a problem in Rio Rancho and in the state of New Mexico.”

In August, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office intercepted shipments of 22,000 fentanyl pills and 4 pounds of meth. About 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.

The Albuquerque Police Department also has not responded to a request for information about whether the rainbow fentanyl was found in Albuquerque.

But illegal drugs are nothing new in New Mexico.

On September 2, multiple police departments and federal agencies in Albuquerque were involved in a massive $5 million drug bust involving fentanyl and heroin. The source of the drugs is said to have been the Sinaloa cartel.

According to a story in the Albuquerque Journal, the pills believed to be intended for distribution in New Mexico totaled more than 1 million. About 142 pounds of methamphetamine were also seized, along with two hand grenades, ballistic vests, a bulletproof baseball cap, 37 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Five people were arrested, including an alleged member of the Sureños gang, whose crew reportedly sold thousands of fentanyl pills each week in Albuquerque, according to a 104-page affidavit from FBI case agent Bryan Acee.

And according to a May 2022 report by the New Mexico Department of Health and Human Services, the state had the 11th-highest drug overdose rate in the United States in 2020, and two in three overdose deaths were associated with opioids, such as prescription opioids, heroin, or fentanyl.

In 2020, the report said the fentanyl-related death rate was seven times that of 2016.

“Rainbow Fentanyl — fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes — is a deliberate attempt by drug dealers to promote addiction in children and young adults,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgran said in an explanation. “The men and women of the DEA are working tirelessly to stop the Rainbow Fentanyl trade and take down the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for most of the fentanyl trafficked in the United States.”

Colorful fentanyl is being confiscated in several forms, including pills, powder and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be stronger than others, there is no indication in DEA’s lab tests that this is the case. Any color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous, according to the press release.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. Already two milligrams of fentanyl, which corresponds to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose. Without lab testing, there is no way of knowing how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder.

Fentanyl remains this country’s deadliest drug threat, the DEA said.

According to the CDC, 107,622 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, with 66 percent of those deaths attributable to synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Drug poisoning is the leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 18 and 45. 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 A pill can kill the public awareness campaign Educate Americans about the dangers of counterfeit pills. Visit DEAs for additional resources for parents and the community Fentanyl Awareness Side.

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