Watch CBS News

DEA warns "emerging trend" of brightly-colored fentanyl being used to lure youth

DEA warns brightly colored fentanyl is being used to lure youth
DEA warns brightly colored fentanyl is being used to lure youth 00:43

The Drug Enforcement Administration issued an advisory Tuesday about an "emerging trend" of "brightly-colored" fentanyl pills being used to lure children and young people. What is often called "rainbow fentanyl" has been seized by law enforcement agencies in 18 states just this month, the DEA said.

The drugs, made to look like candy, comes in several forms, including "pills, powder and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk," the DEA said.

"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.

DEA warns "emerging trend" of colored fentanyl being used to lure youth
An image of so-called "rainbow fentanyl" pills.  Drug Enforcement Administration

Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the DEA. Fentanyl was developed as a pain management treatment for cancer patients but has become a widely used street drug linked to thousands of deaths from overdoses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021, with synthetic opioids accounting for about 71,000 of those.

Earlier this month, Milgram told "CBS Mornings" that two Mexican cartels were believed to responsible for an influx of fentanyl in the U.S.

"It's man-made," Milgram said in the Aug. 19 interview. "So it's important to know that there is an unlimited amount that these two cartels can make. All they need are precursor chemicals that they are buying from China, from these Chinese chemical companies, bringing them to Mexico and synthesizing massive quantities."

In July, authorities discovered a half-ton of fentanyl in a warehouse in Culiacan, Mexico, in what may have been the largest fentanyl seizure in history. It had an estimated street value of $230 million. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.