Drug Enforcement Administration warns about 'alarming emerging trend' of rainbow fentanyl

DEA says working to defeat the Mexican drug cartels responsible for "vast majority" of the fentanyl trafficked in U.S.

Updated: August 31, 2022 - 10:10am

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The Drug Enforcement Administration has issued a warning on what the agency calls an "alarming emerging trend" of rainbow fentanyl – found in 18 states and a new way drug cartels are peddling the highly addictive synthetic opioid.

The potentially deadly drug is "made to look like candy to children and young people," the agency said in an advisory Tuesday. 

The agency said the new form of fentanyl is part of a "deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults" and that it is working to "defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States."

While overall Customs and Border Protection drug seizures have declined under the Biden administration, fentanyl seizures last month were at a record high.

Rainbow fentanyl has been found in many forms, including pills, powder and blocks similar to chalk. No color has been found to be more potent than any other, but any form of fentanyl "should be considered extremely dangerous," agency officials also said.

The synthetic opioid is 50 times more potent than heroin and the equivalent of 10-15 grains of table salt is considered a lethal dose.