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DEA issues warning about deadly ‘rainbow fentanyl’

Pills made to entice children, young people, agents say

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning Tuesday about brightly colored fentanyl pills being distributed across the country.

So-called “rainbow fentanyl” mimics other illicit pills but is made to look like candy and appeal to young people, DEA representatives said in a news release.

Drug cartels are manufacturing Illicit fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and combining it with other drugs. Just a few grains are deadly.

Rainbow fentanyl pills come in bright colors and are meant to look like candy, DEA officials said. (DEA/KLAS)

Last year, the DEA launched its “One pill can kill” campaign as a warning. The pills are often blue and have “M” and “30” stamped on them. The rainbow pills have the same markings but are in different colors.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats released in May show that there were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021 – a jump of almost 15% from 2020, which was 30% higher than the year before that.

Rainbow fentanyl in a plastic bag. (Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office/DEA/KLAS)

“Rainbow fentanyl — fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes — is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” DEA administrator Anne Milgram said in a statement. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”

Some of the product is manufactured in clandestine labs in Mexico. Others are pressed right here in the U.S., officials said.

Authorities in several states are warning of the deadly drug. The Department of Justice announced last week that task force officers seized a large batch of the colorful pills during a bust in Morgantown, West Virginia. In Oregon, officials with the the U.S. Attorney’s Office urged residents to beware of the potentially lethal pills.

In recent months, DEA agents have also pulled thousands of suspected fentanyl pills off Las Vegas valley streets.

Police and prosecutors have charged several young people over the past year with second-degree murder charges in connection with the fentanyl poisoning deaths of other young people.


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