There have been several recent reports of the seizure of a different type of counterfeit fentanyl tablets around the country. The DEA is referring to this novel variant as “rainbow fentanyl.” The name comes from the fact that the street drug can resemble chunks of sidewalk chalk or the colorful smarties-style candies we all remember from our youth.
Despite the new colorful appearance of the drug, the risk it carries to those who come into contact with it is the same as any other fentanyl-containing counterfeit product that is already responsible for hundreds of thousands of fatal overdoses in this country and around the world.
So why bother changing the look of this killer chemical? There can only be a handful of reasons behind the recent appearance of the colorful killers, and all of them serve to do one thing…drive sales and, therefore, profit.
Manufacturers and distributors in cities around the country stand to benefit from the rapid identification of their products as different, superior, and/or more potent than the rest. Think of Walter White’s business decision to have his meth be ice blue in color.
Additionally, making the illegal product resemble candy makes it easier to disguise from authorities and also allows for the introduction of the product to a younger customer base that has heard of the dangers of “blues” or “pinks,” two of the more readily available versions of synthetic fentanyl already on the streets.
Imagine, if you will, a situation in which “rainbow fentanyl,” closely resembling Halloween candy, is left accessible to a young child or tween. They think that they are safe; they have no reason to believe otherwise…until they touch the killer in disguise. Remember, just 2 milligrams, the equivalent of 10-15 grains of salt, can kill an adult male, let alone a kid who has never been exposed to an opioid before. Just touching or handling the candy-looking product can kill them. They don’t even have to ingest it.
The net result is predictable. More deaths were due to fatal overdoses than in 2021, when there were more than 107,000 fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. Synthetic opioids (primarily street fentanyl) accounted for more than three-quarters of these deaths. The dealers are well aware of the toxic nature of their products. A successful business must always be creating new customers. “Rainbow fentanyl” will help them do just that.
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