Rainbow fentanyl, the colorful form of the powerful opioid fentanyl, is on the market in the US, including 15,000 pills smuggled inside a Lego box.
With Halloween approaching on October 31, there is concern that the brightly colored pills may be targeting children, especially after the drug was smuggled in a toy box.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the US, with 59 percent of opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl in 2017.
Only a small amount of fentanyl is required for an overdose and possibly death. More than 80 percent of all overdose deaths in New York are caused by fentanyl, according to CNN.
According to a press release from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in August, 18 states have seized the rainbow drug.
“Reports from the field suggest that fentanyl is being dyed with food coloring, which many believe is used to promote branding or perhaps make it easier to smoke (versus injecting) by allowing fentanyl to be compressed for smoking,” said Kelly E Dunn, a researcher at Maryland Opioid Research (MOR), said Newsweek.
Rainbow fentanyl is regular fentanyl in different colored pills, meaning it has the same effects on the body as its plain colored counterparts.
Often prescribed as a pain-relief treatment, fentanyl is a synthetic opioid and is highly addictive, with a pain-relieving potency approximately 50 times that of heroin and 100 times that of morphine.
Fentanyl and other opioid drugs bind to the body’s opioid receptors, leading to pain relief as well as extreme euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, sedation, or even unconsciousness.
Bright colors may not be intentionally dangerous, but they could inadvertently make the drug more lethal, including looking like candy to children.
“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 induce addiction among children and young adults,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement .
However, according to Dunn, “there is no evidence from the field that colored fentanyl targets children.
“However, young people can (and often do) inadvertently become exposed to fentanyl by taking what they don’t realize are fake pills, and parents can protect them by informing them of the danger of taking unprescribed pills and providing naloxone (Narcan, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioids) is always available,” he said.
Another dangerous effect of rainbow fentanyl is that it can be taken by someone who assumes the color means the pill does not contain the opioid.
“There are also reports that fentanyl dye can help when mixed with other products to determine that there are no fentanyl ‘hot spots’ (individual servings that are disproportionately fentanyl),” Dunn said.
“Down the road, it can help people who use other drugs like cocaine or crack know that their product doesn’t contain fentanyl.”
If someone were to take a rainbow pill thinking it didn’t contain fentanyl, then that could lead to an overdose.
“The men and women of the DEA work tirelessly to stop the rainbow fentanyl traffic and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of fentanyl trafficked into the United States,” Milgram said in the DEA statement. .