First it was razorblades in apples then marijuana-laced gummies, but this year, parents have a new Halloween worry – rainbow fentanyl.
Officials at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) put word out that this new form of deadly fentanyl, found in at least 21 states, looks like real candy. Although not yet seen on the streets in Connecticut, the State Office of the Attorney General announced an arrest last week of two men attempting to sell 15,000 of rainbow fentanyl pills.
What is rainbow fentanyl?
This form of fentanyl gets the name because it comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes. This highly addictive synthetic opioid is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
Rainbow fentanyl can be found in two forms:
- Powder that looks like sidewalk chalk
- Brightly colored pills
“It is important for parents and others in the community to be aware of the signs and symptoms of opioid poisoning and have access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication,” says Dr. Allen.
Why are experts concerned?
Because of its potency and illicit production coupled with its steady rise in availability, fentanyl-related overdose deaths have skyrocketed across the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 70,000 people died from an overdose in 2020. Of those deaths, 82% of them involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
“Although experimental use of marijuana, alcohol or nicotine can be problematic, the first time someone uses fentanyl, purposefully or unknowingly, it can be fatal,” says J. Craig Allen, MD, medical director of Rushford, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network.
While many experts say it’s unlikely the opioid will land in your children’s Halloween basket, parents still need to be on the lookout for it.
DEA administrator Anne Milgram warned that drug cartels are using the brightly colored fentanyl pills to reach a younger generation. Social media is offering another avenue.
“Our kids are on smartphones, and that means that the cartels are following them,” she said. “The cartels are on smartphones, and what we know without question is that most young people are aware that there are people dealing drugs on social media.”
According to Milgram, the best strategy for prevention is to have open and honest conversations with your kids about fentanyl, how they may encounter it, and an “exit strategy” if they do encounter drugs.