The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) says it’s seeing an alarming trend of drug traffickers targeting teenagers and young adults with what's being called “rainbow fentanyl.”
One key Senate Republican is worried that the DEA isn’t doing enough to address the problem.
From busts in New England, along the southern border, and even in Hawaii, the DEA says that in the last month alone, "rainbow fentanyl" was seized in 18 states, including Missouri.
“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 release last month. “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.”
According to the DEA, last year, there were more fentanyl-related deaths than gun and auto-related deaths combined, and authorities fear that "rainbow fentanyl" is only going to make the scourge worse.
“It looks like candy, which really makes it even more dangerous for children, for young people, for teenagers," Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told Spectrum News.
Hawley and law enforcement officials are concerned that rainbow Fentanyl might look like a sweet treat to an unsuspecting child and could be mistaken for prescription medication. They also fear it might lure teens into taking something they don’t realize contains fentanyl.
According to the DEA, fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.
To help aid in reducing fentanyl overdoses, Ryan Razzaghi and August Koster co-founded Signify Analytics, which has developed an at-home fentanyl test kit which can be purchased online. The pair said their hope is that the tests will help people avoid a fentanyl overdose.
“Many colored fentanyl pills are actually blue and pressed to resemble the drug oxycodone,” Koster told Spectrum News.
“The impact here is that fentanyl is ripping through communities and destroying families, and 'rainbow fentanyl' is further adding to this already growing problem,” Razzagh added.
In a letter to DEA administrator Milgram last week, Hawley asked what the agency is doing to raise public awareness of rainbow fentanyl and what is it doing to prevent the drug from coming into the United States.
Hawley told Spectrum News he has not yet received a response to his letter" adding: "I'm not surprised. But I'm not happy about it."
Spectrum News has also reached out to the DEA for comment on Hawley's letter.