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Over 15,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills that look like a small piece of candy were seized Wednesday after authorities found the deadly drugs strapped around a person’s leg at the Nogales Port of Entry for the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
Port Director Michael W. Humphries said the discovery marks the second consecutive day that such pills were found.
Authorities believe the multi-colored pills may be the start of a trend with Transnational Criminal Organizations targeting children.
Humphries said that border patrol agents at the same port of entry found more than 250,000 fentanyl candy-colored pills the day before inside a vehicle, along with 11 pounds of heroin, and 10 pounds of methamphetamine.
Nogales border patrol agents seized more than 1.1 million fentanyl pills from July 31 through August 7.
“Officers made sure these dangerous narcotics won’t make it to U.S. cities,” Humphries said.
However, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials said they had seized similar-looking pills in the D.C. region over the last 18 months.
“My biggest concern, and I think the biggest concern of DEA nationwide, is that the pills seem to be marketed specifically to a younger age group,” Jennifer Lofland, field intelligence manager for the Washington division, told Fox 5 D.C.
Lofland urged parents to warn their children to never take a pill unless prescribed by a doctor, especially considering there is no way to know how potent the drug might be that’s laced with fentanyl.
“Some of the multi-colored pills that we’ve been testing in our labs recently, particularly a recent batch that appeared to be children’s chewable vitamins, were tested by our lab as containing both fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Lofland said.
“And so that is just an added layer of danger,” she said, adding that the agency has found an increasing number of animal tranquilizers added to the pills.
Newsweek reports that the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon recently found several grams of rainbow fentanyl that resembles sidewalk chalk at a residence, and has warned that the new form is considered more potent than pressed pills.
“Deputies are particularly concerned about rainbow fentanyl getting into the hands of young adults or children, who mistake the drug for something else, such as candy or a toy, or those who may be willing to try the drug due to its playful coloring,” the sheriff’s office said.
Kelly Sloop, a pharmacist and executive director of the Need 4 Narcan organization, told Newsweek that the new pill style is used because drug dealers and cartels want to reinvent the wheel to find another means of appealing to kids and young adults.
“And if you actually look at it, it does have the consistency of sidewalk chalk but it kind of looks like a taffy, saltwater taffy, and it is very appealing because it does look like candy,” Sloop said.
“If we don’t continue to stay up to date and continue to raise drug awareness, children and young adults will find this appealing and can get their hands on this and overdose, because they will not know how potent this fentanyl really is, because it does not take much at all to overdose on fentanyl.”