Rainbow Fentanyl

What is Rainbow Fentanyl?

The Rise of “Rainbow Fentanyl” – A Deadly Trend? – A Colourful Disguise for a Lethal Drug

US drug authorities are warning about a new form of fentanyl hitting the streets, brightly coloured pills and powders known as “rainbow fentanyl.” These eye-catching concoctions mimic the look of sweets or chalk, raising fears they could lure unsuspecting kids into accidental overdoses. But let’s take a step back. Is this really a new phenomenon targeting children, or just the latest iteration of the fentanyl crisis plaguing communities across America?

Same Deadly Danger, New Flashy Packaging

While the rainbow hues are novel, experts say fentanyl itself has been disguised in counterfeit pills for years. “The reason it’s coloured is just to differentiate products,” explains Maya Doe Simkins of the Opioid Safety and Naloxone Network. “It has nothing to do with marketing to kids at all.”

The multi-coloured nature of rainbow fentanyl is not an entirely new development, according to experts familiar with illicit drug trends. Joseph Palamar, an NYU researcher focused on fentanyl, states that drug dealers and manufacturers have been tinting fentanyl pills with various dyes for some time now, not solely as a recent tactic. In his view, while the rainbow hues may seem novel to the public, they don’t necessarily make the pills any more hazardous for individuals who don’t actively use fentanyl recreationally. The core danger lies in the potency of the fentanyl itself rather than the aesthetic it is packaged in.

Fentanyl Is Fentanyl – Deadly No Matter the Hue

The real danger lies in fentanyl’s potency, not its packaging. At 50-100 times stronger than morphine, just a tiny amount of this synthetic opioid can prove fatal. And it’s being laced into all sorts of street drugs – from fake Xanax to cocaine – often without users’ knowledge.

While the rainbow colours may make the fentanyl products appear more enticing or “fun” at first glance, paediatric toxicologists caution that this visual allure simply disguises the same deadly risks. “It’s just a different form intended to seem more attractive because of how it looks,” explains Dr. Sam Wang from Children’s Hospital Colorado. “But the fentanyl itself poses the same life-threatening dangers as before.”

At the same time, accidental paediatric exposure doesn’t seem to be a primary concern with this trend based on input from researchers. Illicit fentanyl pills carry a street value, so actively dealing or sharing them with children is highly unlikely from a practical standpoint. Experts like Joseph Palamar of NYU are doubtful these pills will start appearing as trick-or-treat handouts, despite their rainbow makeover. The risk lies more with teens and adults accidentally ingesting them, not young kids being deliberately targeted.

A Crisis Fueled by Rainbow Hues or Not?

At the end of the day, rainbow fentanyl is more a re-branding than a new public health emergency. The real crisis remains the torrent of overdose deaths tied to illicitly manufactured fentanyl hitting U.S. and European streets.

Between the COVID pandemic’s isolation and disruptions to the drug supply, over 109,000 Americans died from overdoses in the 12 months ending March 2022 – a staggering 44% jump from pre-pandemic levels. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl were involved in over two-thirds of those deaths.

So by all means, secure any drugs away from young kids, as you would with any other household hazards. But don’t buy into the hype that rainbow fentanyl represents some new, nefarious marketing scheme. It’s simply a new look for the same horrifically potent killer coursing through our communities. The opioid crisis shows no signs of fading; if anything, it’s just masking its identity behind a new chromatic disguise.

Photo: “Rainbow Fentanyl” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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