By Ben Tinker and Katherine Dillinger, CNN
The US Drug Enforcement Administration issued a warning Tuesday about “brightly-colored fentanyl used to target young Americans.”
The agency said it and its partners in law enforcement seized colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states this month.
“This trend appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people,” the DEA said.
“Brightly-colored fentanyl is being seized in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that resembles sidewalk chalk. Despite claims that certain colors may be more potent than others, there is no indication through DEA’s laboratory testing that this is the case. Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help people such as cancer patients manage severe pain. It’s 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s used illicitly because of its heroin-like effect, and even small doses can be deadly.
“Fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing this country,” the DEA said.
More than 109,000 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending March 2022, according to provisional data published this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths in that time — up from just over half at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the two years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, annual drug overdose deaths have jumped 44%. There were 75,702 deaths in the 12-month period ending March 2020, compared with 109,247 deaths in the latest 12-month period ending March 2022.
Drug deaths among children are relatively rare. But unintentional overdoses led to 200,000 years of lost life for US preteens and teens who died between 2015 and 2019, and experts suspect that the problem has gotten worse during the pandemic.
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips and Jen Christensen contributed to this report.