The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says drug dealers are peddling brightly-colored fentanyl pills in various shapes and sizes and powders to target children and young adults. To date, so-called "rainbow fentanyl" has been seized by law enforcement in 18 states.

"This trend 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," the DEA said in a release.

"It's a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults," DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said.

New Bedford Police Have Not Found Rainbow Fentanyl Yet
Courtesy New Bedford Police

Milgram said Mexican drug cartels are "responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States."

The colorful fentanyl is also sold in blocks to resemble sidewalk chalk.

New Bedford Police Have Not Found Rainbow Fentanyl Yet
Courtesy New Bedford Police

According to the DEA's website, "Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine." The website warns, "Just two milligrams of fentanyl, which is equal to 10-15 grains of table salt, is considered a lethal dose."

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New Bedford Police Chief Paul Oliveira told me that police "haven't seen the rainbow-colored fentanyl here."

"We have seized some blue and purple colored fentanyl pills, but not mixed together," he said.

New Bedford Police Have Not Found Rainbow Fentanyl Yet
Kate Robinson/Townsquare Media

"The blue and purple are more of a branding thing," he said. "Back in the day, dealers would stamp bags of heroin with a specific name or logo trying to brand it so users would go back and look for the same product."

He said pill color is along those same lines.

"Coloring the pills or powder is the same thing now that it is no longer bagged in glassine bags," he said.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman Announces Large Heroin Bust
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Oliveira said some legal marijuana distributors use a similar method, "trying to get their name out there to be the go-to brand of the marijuana market like Marlboro and Newport are in the cigarette market."

DEA launched the ONE PILL CAN KILL campaign last fall and provides additional resources for parents, and the community on its Fentanyl Awareness page.

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