COLORADO — Law enforcement around the nation and here in Colorado continue to warn about the dangers of a new form of fentanyl. Officials are calling it rainbow fentanyl. The drug is being made in a new colorful form, resembling candy, to easily target young adults and even kids.
The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said rainbow fentanyl was first reported to them back in February and has now been seized in 21 states, including here in Colorado. Officials in Mesa County, Colorado said they have seized forms of rainbow fentanyl.
Steve Carleton, executive clinical director of Gallus Medical Detox Centers, said fentanyl is already made to look like pharmaceuticals, and adding in the rainbow coloring is another step to make the drug look more approachable. He said for young kids experimenting with the drug, there is little margin for error, which makes the drug so dangerous.
"When they press these pills with fentanyl, they can vary dramatically in terms of how much fentanyl is in each one and that's why this is so dangerous, right? Because it takes trace amounts, a few sort of grains of salt worth to get a high from it," Carleton said.
He said at Gallus Medical Detox Centers they’re seeing fentanyl use in all different sections of society, crossing all socioeconomic, age, and gender boundaries. Carleton said people that come to their center for help are typically using fentanyl 10 to 25 times a day.
"In that process, that also leaves people really vulnerable for overdose, whether you're an experimental user, or somebody that's been using us for five years, right? Your risk of overdose is high no matter where you fall on the use spectrum," he said.
The El Paso County Coroner said the average age of fentanyl deaths is 12 years younger than the average age of other drug overdose deaths. The county has seen an exponential increase in fentanyl overdose deaths since 2017, with the number of deaths more than doubling from 2020 to 2021.
Parents should be talking to their kids about the dangers of rainbow fentanyl. Carleton said to remind your kids that these pills can look like medicine out of the cabinet. He said to emphasize that even though these pills can look safe or familiar does not mean they are, and that one pill can kill.
There are a few signs you can look for to know if a loved one is using fentanyl:
- Pinpoint pupils
- Nodding off or appearing sleepy
- Big shifts in behavior
Many times it is hard to spot if someone is actively using fentanyl, which Carleton said is why it's important to have open conversations with your loved ones. He said to remember to approach the conversation out of a place of love and care.
"You might only get one opportunity to talk to that person about your concerns, and so use that opportunity wisely. You don't want to confront too harshly, because that can push people the other direction," he said.
Attorneys general from 18 states have signed a letter asking President Joe Biden to declare fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. This would allow agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Department of Defense to work together to stop the distribution of the drug. Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser sent his own letter to President Biden on September 19 calling for the same action, stating "the availability of fentanyl is a crisis that demands swift and decisive federal action."
If you or a loved one are battling drug addiction or a substance use disorder there are resources for you. You can call 988 to receive support for a substance use crisis and to get connected with a treatment center near you. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website can also help locate treatment in your area.
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