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Rainbow Fentanyl

Rainbow fentanyl, a brightly-colored form of illicit street fentanyl, is a major threat in the United States. Experts and parents are concerned about its effect on young people. But what is rainbow fentanyl, and how does it compare to other opioids? Learn more about this dangerous drug and what to do if you encounter it.

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What Is Rainbow Fentanyl?

Rainbow fentanyl is the term used to describe brightly colored fentanyl pills. However, other than the bright colors, rainbow-colored fentanyl is no different than regular fentanyl.

Just like regular fentanyl, rainbow fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid with a high risk of causing dependence and substance use disorder.

Rainbow fentanyl comes in multiple forms, including pills, powder, and blocks resembling sidewalk chalk. As its name suggests, rainbow fentanyl is best known for its bright colors.

As a prescription drug, regular fentanyl can appear as pills, patches, liquids, or lozenges. The illegal drug version of fentanyl may show up as liquid, fake pills, or white powder.

Dangers of Rainbow Fentanyl

The dangers of rainbow fentanyl align with the same dangers presented by regular fentanyl. As mentioned, fentanyl is a highly addictive, potent opioid with a strong chance of leading to health problems, addiction, and deadly overdoses.

After all, any type of fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, making it one of the strongest and most addictive substances on the market.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 150 people die each day from fentanyl and other synthetic opioid-related drug overdoses. Many experts consider fentanyl the deadliest drug threat in the entire U.S.

Drug cartels and dealers also use fentanyl as a cutting agent for other illicit drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamines.

Should Parents Be Worried About Rainbow Fentanyl?

There is some debate about whether or not rainbow fentanyl is made specifically to target young people.

The rainbow fentanyl debate seems to become most prevalent around Halloween, as articles and news segments begin to circulate on social media about strangers potentially trying to give drugs to their kids by passing them off as candy.

In 2022, the DEA released a public health report outlining their concerns that rainbow fentanyl was made specifically to target young people.

In the article, DEA Administrator Anne Milgram expresses her concern that, ultimately, rainbow fentanyl “is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.”

However, other drug experts aren’t convinced that rainbow fentanyl is meant to target kids.

Experts like Dr. Sheila Vakharia, research head at the Drug Policy Alliance, explain that drug cartels and traffickers design colors, shapes, and stamps on rainbow fentanyl to distinguish their products from others.

Other experts also argue that fears about rainbow fentanyl targeting kids are not only overblown but don’t make any sense. For one thing, kids do not have access to money and resources that dealers would want out of a customer.

Ultimately, it appears that rainbow fentanyl is just as dangerous as regular fentanyl and likely does not pose a more significant threat to young people compared to any other form of fentanyl.

One Pill Can Kill

One Pill Can Kill” is a fentanyl awareness campaign centered around the dangers of fake pills.

Disguised as opioids, benzodiazepines, and other prescription drugs, these fake pills are often cut with fentanyl to increase the potential user “high” and increase the chances users will get hooked.

However, the problem is that these drug traffickers aren’t qualified chemists; many of these counterfeit pills contain unsafe or even lethal doses of fentanyl, and many drug users aren’t aware that these pills contain fentanyl at all.

In 2023 alone, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized 62 million counterfeit pills. Of the fake pills taken, they found 7 out of every 10 contained a lethal dose of fentanyl.

As fentanyl overdose deaths continue to climb, the DEA aims to combat these unnecessary deaths through the One Pill Can Kill campaign. The goal is to educate people about the very high risk that it can only take one of these fake pills to cause a deadly overdose.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Rainbow Fentanyl

What is rainbow fentanyl?

Rainbow fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that comes in the form of colorful tablets that look like candy. It may also appear as colorful powder or blocks resembling sidewalk chalk.

Rainbow fentanyl is just as potent and dangerous as regular fentanyl.

Why is it called rainbow fentanyl?

Rainbow fentanyl gets its name from the bright colors that it comes in. Regular fentanyl is generally white or colorless.

How does rainbow fentanyl compare to other forms of fentanyl?

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), rainbow fentanyl has the same potency as traditional forms of fentanyl. Rainbow fentanyl is only different because of its colorful presentation.

Where does rainbow fentanyl come from?

Experts believe that rainbow fentanyl originated in Mexico.

Most illicit fentanyl is manufactured in underground warehouses in Mexico and China, then trafficked into the U.S. Legitimate, prescription fentanyl does NOT come in bright colors; all rainbow fentanyl is produced illegally and in unsafe conditions.

What should I do if I find rainbow fentanyl?

According to the CDC and DEA, if you come across any type of fentanyl (including rainbow fentanyl), you should call 911 immediately. Do NOT touch or move the fentanyl.

Can I overdose by accidentally touching fentanyl?

It is unlikely that coming into contact with fentanyl (i.e., touching fentanyl or touching something that had fentanyl on it) would cause an overdose. While fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin, that can only happen over very prolonged periods (specifically, the fentanyl patch).

Why would drug dealers market fentanyl to kids?

The truth is, they wouldn’t. Kids are not an appealing market for drug dealers to target, especially for something as deadly as fentanyl.

Kids do not have access to the kind of money that would fund a drug habit, and due to their small size, would be much more likely to overdose on illicit products containing fentanyl.

While drug experts encourage parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of substance abuse from an early age, it is not likely that young kids are being targeted as potential fentanyl addicts.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

  1. Best, J. (2022, October 18). Should Parents Really Be Worried About Rainbow Fentanyl?. Scientific American.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023a, August 8). Understanding the Opioid Overdose Epidemic. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023b, September 6). Fentanyl Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. DEA Warns of Brightly-Colored Fentanyl Used to Target Young Americans. DEA. (2022, August 30).
  5. Fentanyl. DEA. (n.d.).
  6. Howard, J. (2022, September 25). What Is Rainbow Fentanyl? Colorful Pills Drive New Warnings About Deadliest Drug in the US. CNN.
  7. Mann, B. (2022, October 11). Is “Rainbow Fentanyl” a Threat to Your Kids This Halloween? Experts Say No. NPR.
  8. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Fentanyl Awareness | (n.d.).
  9. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. One Pill Can Kill | (n.d.).

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