WASHINGTON — With Halloween just weeks away, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is warning parents to check your children's candy very closely this year.
Calling it an "alarming emerging trend," the DEA said "rainbow fentanyl" — brightly colored pills containing the highly dangerous and toxic drug — is a new method drug cartels are using to make fentanyl look like candy to children and young people.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said rainbow fentanyl comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes — even some resembling sidewalk chalk — and is a "deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults."
The agency said law enforcement agencies seized rainbow fentanyl in 18 states in August.
"Every color, shape, and size of fentanyl should be considered extremely dangerous," Milgram said.
As an extra layer of precaution, drug enforcement agents are asking parents to check your children's candy very carefully this Halloween. If you see something suspicious, call 911 immediately.
Heather Cummings loves this time of year. In fact, she spends more time decorating now than at Christmas time.
But the Port St. Lucie mom took pause when seeing the news about rainbow fentanyl making an appearance around the country.
"It got me really concerned about candy that looks like that, because there’s a lot of candy that looks like colorful fentanyl," Cummings said.
The DEA recently said that Mexican drug cartels want the pills to look like candy, even using names like Skittles or SweetTarts.
"As far as fentanyl, with candy, we have not seen any cases like that, either here or throughout the state," said Port St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Richard DelToro
DelToro said with Halloween approaching, use common sense when your kids are unloading their trick or treat bags.
"Always wait until you get home to inspect the candy first. You can inspect it for any tears in the wrappers. We encourage people to only eat commercially wrapped candies," DelToro said.
If you still have concerns, a number of community organizations and law enforcement agencies hold "Trunk Or Treat" events on site.
"From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the 31st. Our candy is inspected. The vendors go through an inspection," said Martin County Chief Deputy John Budensiek.
Budensiek understands the overall concern because of the deadliness of fentanyl, but he doesn’t see it being passed to trick or treaters.
"Fentanyl costs money. Drug dealers aren’t just going to take fentanyl and arbitrarily put in the bags and send it out on the street for kids. What we do worry about is our high school kids and college age kids going to parties, being exposed to something that’s candy-like, but is actually fentanyl," Budensiek said.
Cummings said she’ll be scouring her kids' candy bags carefully, and has no problem trick or treating this year.
"I feel you have to live your life like normal or it’s just not going to be a fun life," Cummings said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing our country. It's 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.
107,622 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, with 66% of those from synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
For more information about fentanyl, including important resources for parents, click here.