Why ‘Rainbow Fentanyl’ Is Dangerous for Kids

In late August, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) issued a warning to the public to look out for an “alarming emerging trend”: colourful capsule and powder variations of the potent opioid fentanyl, generally known as “rainbow fentanyl.” “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 company stated.

While fentanyl does threaten younger individuals’s lives—particularly if they are not conscious they’re taking it—some drug specialists warning that focusing simply on the rainbow model might obscure different equally harmful kinds of the drug. Here’s what to find out about rainbow fentanyl, and shield your self and your youngsters.

The give attention to rainbow fentanyl could also be deceptive

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl could be very harmful in any colour, and a few drug specialists fear that there is an excessive amount of give attention to the dangers posed by rainbow fentanyl. “Kids are getting pills, and some of them are dying from them. This is absolutely a distraction,” says Dean Shold, co-founder of the non-profit FentCheck, which supplies fentanyl take a look at strips and drug schooling.

Another problem is that the DEA hasn’t revealed proof that the colours are meant particularly to draw youngsters. Fentanyl has are available in colours for years, and some research has found that colour is without doubt one of the methods drug customers determine illicit medicine’ efficiency. “It’s actually keeping them safe, because they know what they’re getting for each color,” says Jon E. Zibbell, a senior public well being analyst at RTI International, a nonprofit analysis institute selling science-based options for public-health points.

If a substance is marketed as a prescription capsule like oxycodone or Xanax, nonetheless, teenagers and different younger individuals who use medicine might not understand they include fentanyl, says Dr. Scott E. Hadland, a pediatrician and habit specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The illicit drug provide within the US could be very harmful, partially as a result of substances offered as one drug might include a combination of others, together with harmful substances just like the animal tranquilizer xylazine and benzodiazepines. This randomness raises the chances of overdose due to the mixed results of medication, in addition to the likelihood that an individual may devour too robust of an opioid dose.

Hadland worries that multi-colored fentanyl may make it extra “interesting or exciting” to younger individuals. But, he says, “fentanyl is already everywhere in the market. I don’t know that this is going to be some new thing that brings in teens to use who had not previously been using.”

Kids are already in danger from fentanyl

Over the previous couple of years, the variety of annual overdose deaths amongst 14- to 18-year-olds within the US has elevated, rising from roughly 490 in 2019 to about 950 in 2020, based on an analysis revealed in JAMA in April. A rising share of adlescent overdose deaths contain fentanyl; the drug was concerned in additional than two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2021.

It’s additionally extra widespread for producers to press fentanyl to appear to be prescribed drugs, says Joseph Palamar, an affiliate professor at New York University Langone who research drug-use epidemiology. For occasion, many coloured fentanyl drugs are blue and pressed with the M30 brand to resemble the drug oxycodone. In a research published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence in May, Palamar and colleagues discovered that the portion of fentanyl seized in capsule type rose from 13.8% in 2018 to 29.2% in 2021. “I’d warn [my children] that illegally obtained pills can contain fentanyl, and that exposure to even a small amount can be enough to kill someone,” he says.

How to maintain your youngsters secure

It’s important to retailer all medicine the place younger youngsters cannot attain them, says Palamar. “I’m not sure if manufacturers or dealers intend for these new pills to attract kids, but what worries me is that they can attract kids,” says Palamar. “What worries me is if a kid’s parent, sibling, or friend leaves one of these fentanyl pills around and then someone—a kid or an adult—eats it thinking it’s candy.”

Keeping an open dialogue with teenagers in regards to the risks of illicit medicine can assist shield them, says Hadland. Teens ought to know that illegally obtained drugs might include fentanyl, and that even a small quantity of fentanyl could be deadly, he says.

Parents also needs to contemplate holding the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan available, which might save somebody’s life. “I think of it like a fire extinguisher,” says Hadland. “It’s the thing you always want to have in your home but never want to actually need to use.”

Some youngsters use illicit medicine to deal with habit or a mental-health dysfunction, and fogeys ought to watch for crimson flags, says Hadland. For occasion, teenagers typically use alcohol, marijuana, or nicotine earlier than turning to riskier medicine; it is particularly regarding, he says, if a teen makes use of substances ceaselessly. Other warning indicators can embrace struggling in class and adjustments or deteriorations of their relationships. However, prevention is greatest, and ensuring that youngsters obtain assist for any mental-health issues is without doubt one of the greatest methods to safeguard in opposition to drug use.

“I think conversations often are quite alarmist: ‘Look at this new drug! Imagine if this were to make it into your community!’” says Hadland. “We also need to remember that many of the young people who use these substances are struggling with mental-health problems or addiction that are going completely unaddressed. And we need to make sure we’re providing resources for that.”

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