Fentanyl, an extremely potent and dangerous synthetic opioid, continues to be a major contributor to drug overdoses in California, including among youth. The state alerted education leaders this week reminding them about the concerning trends of opioid overdoses and warning them about a new brightly-colored fentanyl.
In a letter to county and district school administrators, State Public Health Officer and Director Tomás J. Aragón warned about a new brightly-colored fentanyl, referred to as rainbow fentanyl) that has surfaced as a new trend in the United States.
"This rainbow fentanyl can be found in many forms, including pills, powder, and blocks that can resemble sidewalk chalk or candy," Aragón said in his letter. "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.
He also shared information from the state's overdose surveillance dashboard, including:
- Emergency department visits related to non-fatal opioid overdoses in California's youth ages 10-19 years more than tripled from 2018 (379 total) to 2020 (1,222 total).
- 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.
- 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.
“Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Anne Milgram. “The men and women of the DEA are relentlessly working to stop the trafficking of rainbow fentanyl and defeat the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the vast majority of the fentanyl that is being trafficked in the United States.”
Last spring, the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District partnered with community partners (Montage Health, Ohana, and Sun Street Centers) to educate the community on drug prevention and the dangers of fentanyl. MPUSD also developed information videos on the dangers of fentanyl.