Every Halloween, scary stories abound about dealers passing illicit drugs to unsuspecting children. Media outlets share stories and rumors like these, which are more often than not, completely untrue. Concerned parents hear these stories each year via social media or word of mouth. Still, concern among parents regarding the dangers of illicit drugs like rainbow fentanyl should not be taken likely, given the growing opioid epidemic in the U.S. So what is rainbow fentanyl? What does it look like? And how can we protect our loved ones from it?
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid drug that is manufactured legally and illegally. As a prescription drug, fentanyl treats severe pain following surgery or for those with chronic pain from advanced-stage cancer. It can also treat pain for those with a high tolerance to feeling the effects of other opioids, like morphine.
In fact, fentanyl is about 100 times as potent as morphine. However, fentanyl is trending due to both illegal manufacturing and abuse of the prescription form of the drug. Fentanyl that is made illegally is often “cut” into other illicit substances to hook users with its highly addictive effects.
For instance, dealers may put powdered fentanyl into drugs like heroin or cocaine to ensure that users become addicted to their products. In addition, people might abuse prescription fentanyl by taking more than their prescribed dose, feigning pain symptoms for more, “doctor-shopping” to get more scripts, or purchasing another person’s medication.
Fentanyl tablets come in a variety of colors for different reasons. Depending on how the drug is sold—legally or illegally—the reasons could be harmless or sinister in nature.
Since fentanyl is made by a variety of both legal and illegal manufacturers, different colors of tablets are not uncommon. Much like other prescription drugs, specific brands like to distinguish their products from the competition. However, illegally manufactured fentanyl could be colored for less innocuous reasons.
An August 2022 press release by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) stated rainbow fentanyl “appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people.” The bright colors and different shapes might look more appealing to children and adolescents. In addition, rainbow fentanyl can be either in powder or pill form.
There could also be another reason fentanyl comes in various colors and shapes—drug smuggling. By changing the drug to look more like candy or other tablets, smugglers can disguise the drug when crossing borders to the U.S. This could lead to an influx of fentanyl pills getting through security measures—and making their way to new and existing users.
While it is difficult to know the exact reasons for rainbow-colored fentanyl, opioid addiction rates continue to rise in the United States. Along with rising rates of addiction, overdoses and deaths rise as well. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, contribute to the increase in both addictions and overdose deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[t]he number of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids [like fentanyl] in 2020 was more than 18 times the number in 2013.” If rainbow fentanyl is easier to smuggle and appeals to younger users, these numbers could continue to rise.
Preventing opioid addiction is challenging. Many people become addicted unwillingly after using prescription opioids following surgery or injury. Or, they might become addicted to painkillers due to a chronic health condition. Still, others get addicted after experimenting with drugs or taking substances to deal with underlying mental and emotional health conditions.
While there are no easy answers, turning this problem around will take a combined effort from lawmakers, enforcement agencies, doctors, prescription drug manufacturers, and community leaders. However, many family members, especially parents of children and adolescents, want to know what they can do now to protect their loved ones.
The following are tips to help loved ones prevent addiction or prevent addiction from worsening:
Rainbow fentanyl could contribute to the rising numbers of opioid addiction and overdoses in the United States. While many rumors of dealers passing fentanyl and other drugs disguised as candy on Halloween are often untrue, the threat of potent drugs is real. If your loved one is struggling with opioid addiction, Believe Detox Center of Los Angeles, California, is here to help. Contact us today to get your loved one the treatment they deserve.
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