In recent weeks, the “rainbow fentanyl” has hit American communities hard. On August 30, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a warning “advising the public of an alarming emerging trend of colored fentanyl available in the United States.” The DEA went on to describe it as “a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl designed to look like candy to children and youth.”
The rainbow fentanyl scare has since made headlines, tied to everything from anti-immigration sentiment to China to fears of tainted Halloween candy.
A former DEA official appeared on Fox News in August and said, “You have the Chinese Communist Party trying to destabilize this country by killing the children. It’s so simple.” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel went on the same network and raised the possibility that the multicolored drugs are ending up in children’s Halloween candy baskets. A Fox News segment this week focused almost exclusively on the Halloween aspect, with one panelist even suggesting that kids skip treatment or treatment this year.
Rainbow fentanyl fears have been bipartisan. The first warning, after all, came from the Biden administration’s DEA, as Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) this week called for $290 million in new funding. to fight fentanyl, including the “rainbow” type.
“It’s fentanyl, it’s a Sweetart — you tell me the difference,” Schumer said, according to the New York Post, showing photos of the two. “Halloween is coming…it’s really eerie and really dangerous.”
Some skepticism, however, has been raised about rainbow fentanyl. On the one hand, it makes little sense for drug dealers to target children, who have little money and whose overdose deaths tend to attract the attention of law enforcement that drug dealers don’t. don’t like. There is little evidence that “rainbow” fentanyl is new or more dangerous than regular fentanyl, and it is more likely that multi-colored pills are a marketing choice of drug dealers to differentiate their product than an infamous plot originating in China to kill children.
“There is no evidence – none at all – that these pills are being peddled on the playground,” said an analysis in Reason magazine this week. “Fentanyl is not just a deadly drug: it is a scourge on the earth. But candy-eating kids aren’t the target, and scaring parents into thinking otherwise is a waste of the DEA’s time.
In the midst of all this, the Department of Justice this week announced a large seizure of drugs, including fentanyl.
The DEA and its law enforcement partners, in a months-long effort called the “One Pill Can Kill” initiative, “seized more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder”. The drugs were seized between May 23 and September 8, along with 338 weapons, including “rifles, shotguns, pistols and hand grenades”.
“Across the country, fentanyl is devastating families and communities, and we know that violent and criminal drug cartels are responsible for this crisis,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in the announcement. “The Department of Justice, including the extraordinary professionals at the DEA, is working to disrupt and dismantle the operations of these cartels, remove deadly fentanyl from our communities, and save the lives of Americans.”
The drug seizures were not a grand raid on a particular drug operation in one location, but rather the result of an “enforcement push” in which all of these drugs and weapons were seized over a period of specific time across the country. Law enforcement agencies often make similar pushes when combating human trafficking.
It should be noted that not all, or even primarily, seizures involved rainbow fentanyl. In fact, this phenomenon is only mentioned in passing in the DOJ press release.
“Drug dealers have expanded their inventory to sell fentanyl in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes,” the statement said. “Rainbow fentanyl was first reported to the DEA in February 2022, and it has now been seized in 21 states.”
Filter Mag also weighed in on the rainbow fentanyl craze.
“The ‘rainbow fentanyl’ panic is a natural extension of several things: the long-standing annual tradition of Halloween candy scare campaigns; the growing demonization of fentanyl as a call for more funding for law enforcement and border patrols, and more potent naloxone products developed by pharmaceutical companies; and the need to convince an audience acclimated to the idea of fentanyl that, in fact, fentanyl is even scarier than they thought,” the magazine said.
Stephen Silver, technology writer for national interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who also contributes to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. Co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.