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Authorities say drug dealers are using rainbow fentanyl to target younger generation

Authorities say drug dealers use rainbow fentanyl to target youth
Authorities say drug dealers use rainbow fentanyl to target youth 02:38

NEW YORK -- The synthetic drug fentanyl is taking more and more lives across our region every day, and it's not just on street corners anymore; it's right at your doorstep.

Authorities say drug cartels are targeting the younger generation with social media and colorful pressed pills, like rainbow and tie-dye fentanyl.

Fentanyl fears are high in New York City this holiday season.

Two milligrams is a lethal dose of fentanyl -- that's equivalent to just 10 grains of salt on your kitchen table.

"I am shocked at the amount of fentanyl pills that we're seizing and the fentanyl powder that we're seizing. Week by week, month by month, we're seizing more and more," said Frank Tarentino, DEA New York's top agent.

As the DEA's fight to save lives continues, Tarentino says drug cartels are now pushing the poison onto teens through social media apps like TikTok and Facebook.

"Rainbow fentanyl is another version the fentanyl-laced fake prescription pills that we're seeing across the country, and it really is a marketing scheme," he told CBS2's Jennifer Bisram.

RELATED STORY: Nearly 300,000 rainbow fentanyl pills, 20 pounds of powdered fentanyl seized in the Bronx

In New York City, all opioids are brought to the DEA's laboratory for testing. Agents say the new way drug dealers are trying to market fentanyl is mixing it with other colors to attract users.

Federal agents recently seized 19,000 rainbow fentanyl pills. They're also starting to see "speckled" or tie-dye fentanyl tablets.

Tom Blackwell, the DEA's lab director for the Northeast region, says the poisonous purity levels are the same.

"We analyze about 24,000 fentanyl tablets a week," he said. "Six out of every 10 tablets contains a lethal dose of fentanyl."

Agents say fentanyl is being smuggled into United States borders from countries like Mexico.

"We've seen them in suitcase rails. We've seen them smuggled in as batteries, legitimate batteries. Fake perfumes, shampoos," Blackwell said.

It's taking the lives of habitual, social and even first-time users in our area.

Twenty-one-year-old Garrett Venza is one of the faces of fentanyl. His father, John Venza, lost him six years ago around Thanksgiving. 

"He says, 'OK, going to bed, love you.' I said I love you, and those were the last words we spoke," Venza said. "Unfortunately, I found him overdosed on the floor of his bedroom."

RELATED STORY: DEA: 15,000 rainbow fentanyl pills found hidden in Lego container during arrest in New York City

Venza is vice president of adolescent and residential services at Outreach, an alcohol and substance abuse treatment center with locations in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. It specializes in adolescent care.

"The ironic twist of fate was I couldn't help my own son," he said.

But he says his commitment to helping other families is what's helping him keep his son's memory alive.

"He was a warm-hearted, wonderful kid. I mean, everybody loved him," Venza said.

He says his Long Island center is seeing a surge in overdose deaths among 14-18 year olds.

In the five boroughs, the Bronx has the highest overdose deaths, as well as the highest drug seizures.

Federal agents on the front lines of the fentanyl fight say they're working with law enforcement partners to take down the drug dealers, and Tarentino says, "Getting out into the community and educating and providing the awareness to the community, to the caregivers, to the educators so that they understand what this crisis is all about."

If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, visit for more resources.

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