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State Health Officials Issue Alert to School Leaders About Rainbow Fentanyl

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an alert about a new version of the synthetic drug fentanyl that comes in bright colors and resembles candy.  

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency recently identified this new trend in which “rainbow fentanyl” appears in bright colors and in many forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that can resemble sidewalk chalk or candy.

Fentanyl is an extremely potent and dangerous synthetic opioid that is 80-100 times more potent than morphine and 40-50 times more potent than heroin. As a result, it’s a major cause of overdose for unsuspecting individuals. 

Officials warned that any pill (regardless of its color, shape, or size) that does not come from a health care provider or pharmacist can contain fentanyl and can be deadly. Oftentimes, people purchasing these pills are unaware that they contain fentanyl. 

According to the DEA, this version appears to be a new method used by drug cartels to sell highly addictive and potentially deadly fentanyl made to look like candy to children and young people.

One of the ways that schools and districts can be prepared for the possibility of an overdose on a school campus is having on hand naloxone, a life-saving drug that reverses an opioid overdose. Visit SDCOE’s website to learn how to obtain this drug.

Also available to schools and districts across the county are drug-prevention education resources that include presentations focusing on increasing the perception of harm among our young people around opioids, marijuana, and other drugs. You can learn more about this program on SDCOE’s website or reach out directly to presenter Rocky Herron at

In San Diego, there were more than 1,100 overdose deaths in 2021, compared to 976 in 2020. In 2021, 22 young people under the age of 21, and 12 teens under the age of 18 died from overdose. Statewide, the statistics are more alarming.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, opioid-related overdose deaths in California’s youth ages 10-19 years increased from 2018 (54 total) to 2020 (274 total), marking a 407 percent increase over two years, largely driven by fentanyl. In addition, fentanyl-related overdose deaths in California’s youth ages 10-19 years increased from 2018 (36 total) to 2020 (261 total), a 625 percent increase.

If you encounter fentanyl in any form, do not handle it and call 911 immediately. 

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