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DEA warns brightly-colored fentanyl in New York targets children for addiction

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U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
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"Rainbow fentanyl" comes in a variety of attractive colors. These pills are made to look like the legal prescription drug oxycodone.

With school around the corner, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a national warning about brightly-colored fentanyl pills that target young people.

So far the pills have been found in over a dozen states, including New York.

The drug is called “rainbow fentanyl” because the pills come in different colors: pink, purple, yellow, and turquoise. The colors are similar to SweetTart candies. Frank Tarentino is head of D.E.A. operations in New York. He said the look is part of a deliberate strategy by drug cartels to target young children.

“To try to drive addiction and create more customers, increase their customer base,” Tarentino said.

The D.E.A. warning says the drug comes in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They’ve so far seized pills, powders, and small blocks that look like used pieces of sidewalk chalk.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine or heroin. The DEA said it is the cause of a rise in opioid overdose deaths in the country.

Tarentino said dealers now communicate with children through social media apps like TikTok and deliver drugs by mail.

“So, as educators and people in positions of responsibility we need to take time to have conversations with our young people about the dangers of illicit drugs. More specifically these synthetic opioids that are being trafficked on different social media platforms,” he said.

A D.E.A. spokesperson said the pills can be many colors but purple pills have been found in the capital region of New York and the agency has several investigations in progress.