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UW-Milwaukee police, DEA warn of 'rainbow fentanyl' targeting young people across the nation

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, law enforcement seized brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states in August.
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Posted at 8:17 PM, Aug 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 21:18:55-04

UW-Milwaukee police and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are warning the public about "rainbow fentanyl" targeting young people across the country.

According to the DEA, law enforcement partners seized brightly-colored fentanyl and fentanyl pills in 18 states in August.

"Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. A 3-milligram dose of fentanyl—a few grains of the substance—is enough to kill an average adult male," UW-Milwaukee police said Wednesday.

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram says rainbow fentanyl is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction among the youth by using bright colors, shapes, and sizes.

“The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States," Milgram said.

Rainbow fentanyl
Rainbow fentanyl is being sized in the form of pills, powders, and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk.

Rainbow fentanyl is being seized in the form of pills, powders, and blocks that resemble sidewalk chalk. According to the DEA, there is no indication that certain colors may be more potent than others, warning all shapes and colors are considered "extremely dangerous."

"Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose," DEA said in a news release. "Without laboratory testing, there is no way to know how much fentanyl is concentrated in a pill or powder."

Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat in the United States, the DEA says. Over 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021 with 66% of those deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl, according to the CDC.

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There were 613 overdose deaths in Milwaukee County in 2021, which is up from 523 in 2020 and 402 in 2019. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesdaythe county is on track for over 700 drug-related deaths this year.

If you or someone you know encounter any version of fentanyl, call 911 immediately.

Read the full DEA warning on their website.

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