It’s no secret that synthetic opioids like fentanyl have gained a troubling amount of popularity amongst drug dealers and their customer base in recent years, rapidly becoming one of the leading causes of overdose-related deaths in the United States.
But in 2022, an even more concerning version of this already dangerous substance has slowly risen to become a significant threat to young people, whether they’ve actively engaged in drug use or not.
Rainbow fentanyl, a colorful version of the highly addictive opioid medication, has been created by illicit drug makers to appeal to vulnerable youths and the impact has already proven to be devastating.
Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at this frightening new substance, so that concerned parents can take a proactive approach to protect their children from the dangers of opioid use, no matter how alluring the substances may be.
What Is Rainbow Fentanyl?
In its original form, fentanyl is an ultra-potent opioid pain medication that is nearly 50 times more powerful than other leading drugs like Morphine.
And despite being created to provide relief for cancer patients and other extreme pain sufferers, fentanyl has quickly become sought-after by drug dealers due to its extremely addictive nature.
Just like standard fentanyl, rainbow fentanyl contains the same pain-killing potency and addiction-fueling ingredients, delivered in a bright, colorful form made to look like candy.
As many officials have speculated, these drugs have been designed to be visually appealing to children in the hopes of driving addiction amongst the younger population, creating a new generation of drug users that illicit drug makers can profit from.
According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), agents have seized large quantities of rainbow fentanyl in nearly 18 states across the nation, making it a significant threat to kids and young people in the United States.
Fentanyl Vs. Rainbow Fentanyl: What’s The Difference?
When it comes to defending your child against the dangers of rainbow fentanyl, the first step is understanding exactly what the differences are between the two forms of this drug, so that you can easily identify this problematic substance.
Here’s what you need to know…
Comes In Many Forms
One of the most notable aspects of fentanyl is the variety of ways in which it can be consumed. When administered in a hospital setting, fentanyl can be given using a patch, as lozenges, or even as an injection. However, when sold illegally, you can find this drug as a fentanyl lollipop, powders, pills, and laced when other popular drugs like heroin and cocaine.
Given In Hospital Settings
As previously mentioned, fentanyl originated as a pain-management drug that is still used in hospitals today. The most common use for fentanyl in hospitals is treating advanced stages of cancer, where other forms of pain management have become inefficient. In these cases, the fentanyl dosage is carefully monitored by hospital staff in a safe, sterile environment.
Usually Discreetly Colored
In appearance, fentanyl is typically made to blend in with other medications, especially when created by illegal drug makers. This can include white powders or light blue colored pills that can be easily trafficked while drawing as little attention as possible.
Comes In Candy-Like Shapes
Possibly the most identifiable characteristic of rainbow fentanyl is the candy-like shapes that it’s created with. Made to mimic popular children’s candies like Smarties and Pixie Stix, rainbow fentanyl is typically sold in small pills, vibrant powder packages, and sidewalk chalk-shaped bars, making it easy to be confused with a sweet treat.
Not Used In Hospitals
Unlike standard fentanyl, rainbow fentanyl is solely used as a street drug and is not administered in hospital settings or prescribed by medical providers. That’s because this drug has been specially designed to appeal to young people and defies many of the standards and regulations that hospitals and drug manufacturers follow when creating medications for medical purposes.
Bright, Colorful Coating
As the name suggests, rainbow fentanyl is just that: colorful. This vibrant appearance makes it even more tempting to vulnerable youth, with the most common forms of rainbow fentanyl coming in bright blue, yellow, green, and even pink varieties.
What Are The Risks Of Rainbow Fentanyl?
In adults, the risks of using fentanyl and other illicit substances can come with life or death consequences.
But when used by children, these risks become even more heightened, making the distribution of rainbow fentanyl an urgent crisis for schools, hospitals, and parents alike.
The biggest risks associated with rainbow fentanyl include…
Early On-Set Addiction
Since drug dealers rely on rainbow fentanyl to entice the younger generation into picking up a substance use habit, the side effects of fentanyl can often lead to dependence within a very small window of time. This can lead to a lifelong struggle with drug abuse that can drastically impact your child’s ability to live a healthy, fulfilling life, as well as decrease their life expectancy significantly.
Besides the toll that fentanyl can have on a young person’s health, these drugs can also greatly alter their emotional and mental well-being, leading to negative behavioral patterns that become difficult to break.
Some changes in your child’s behavior might include…
- Lying about their whereabouts
- Neglecting the things they once loved
- Increased irritability or aggressiveness
- Engaging in riskier activities like drinking, drug use, and unprotected sex.
If your child has developed a drug use problem, then the harsh physical fentanyl withdrawal symptoms may require medical intervention to ensure a safe, carefully monitored detox.
The most common fentanyl side effects are…
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased anxiety or irritability
- Restlessness and trouble sleeping
- Intense sweating
- Sore muscles and joints
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Chills and goosebumps
- Inability to communicate or respond
When any of these fentanyl withdrawal symptoms occur, you need to seek immediate medical assistance to prevent a life-threatening overdose from occurring.
The final and most severe risk of using rainbow fentanyl is the possibility of a fentanyl overdose. For adults, just 2 milligrams of the substance can prove to be deadly. But in young people, a lethal dose of fentanyl may be even smaller than that, making the chance of a fatality even higher. In 2021, overdose deaths from synthetic opioids increased nearly 55% from the previous year. And with the growing presence of rainbow fentanyl, these numbers are expected to climb even higher in the years to come.
What Are The Warning Signs Of Rainbow Fentanyl Use?
The teenage and young adult years can be a challenging time, often filled with significant mood and personality changes, along with ongoing physical developments.
These issues can make it difficult to tell if your child is experimenting with drugs, since many of these symptoms can also be attributed to fluctuating hormones and other growing pains.
But with that being said, there are a few signs that you should be aware of if you suspect that your child may have been exposed to rainbow fentanyl or any other dangerous substance.
Symptoms of substance use in teens and young adults…
- Becoming sullen, withdrawn, or depressed
- Increasing hostile or agitated behavior, like yelling, throwing things, or becoming physically violent
- Acting secretively by locking their doors, not disclosing where they’ve been, or failing to communicate with you
- Lack of proper hygiene, including not showering, brushing their hair, or teeth
- Loss of enthusiasm for things they previously cared about, like school or other hobbies
- Suddenly changing their friend group or spending time with people you’ve never heard of
- Frequently becoming sick or experiencing sudden dramatic weight loss
- Poor sleeping habits, such as staying up all night and sleeping through the next day
If you spot any of these signs in your child, it may be time to have an honest talk with them about the risks of drug use.
How To Talk To Your Child About Drugs?
Talking to your child about drugs can be a sticky subject.
When approached properly, it can strengthen your relationship and open up new pathways of communication that will benefit you both for years to come.
But when done poorly, it can drive your child even further away from you, which makes combating potential drug use even more of a challenge.
So, if you’re ready to talk to your child about rainbow fentanyl or other substances, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your conversation goes as smoothly as possible…
Step 1 – Meet Them Where They Are
Depending on how old your child is, you’ll likely need to adjust your approach to meet them on their level.
For example, a pre-school-aged child may not be able to fully comprehend the severity of certain substances, but you can still talk with them about the types of medications you keep in your home, so that they understand that some things are made for adults and others are made for children.
But a high-schooler will likely have already been exposed to a variety of substances, opening up a window of opportunity for you to talk with them about some of the things they’ve encountered, so that they feel comfortable sharing their curiosities and experiences with you.
Step 2 – Ask Them Questions
One of the best ways to initiate a conversation about drugs with your child is to start by asking them what they already know.
By doing this, you place the ball in their court and allow them to express themselves without feeling intimidated or cornered. This also gives you an opportunity to gauge how much information they already have on the subject, so that you can tailor your responses accordingly.
You may be surprised to know how informed your child is about the issues relating to drug use, which can make it easier for you to address these topics in the future.
Step 3 – Talk About Consequences, Not Punishments
Of course, no conversation about drug use is complete without discussing the risks associated with it.
However, it’s important not to alienate your child with threats or harsh punishments that will inevitably make them less likely to come to you for help if they’ve gotten into trouble.
Instead, talk to your child about the long-term consequences that drug use can have, including the physical symptoms and impact on their overall quality of life. This can help put the severity of substance use into perspective without coming across as aggressive or threatening.
Step 4 – Set Clear Boundaries
Next, you’ll need to establish any ground rules you plan to enforce in your home, whether they pertain specifically to drug use or not. This can include things like having a curfew, not leaving doors unlocked, and communicating about their comings and goings on a regular basis.
Once you’ve decided which rules will work best for your family, be sure to explain to your child why these boundaries are in place, so that they can understand your position and where you’re coming from as a parent concerned for their safety and well-being.
Step 5 – Keep The Conversation Going
Finally, protecting your child from the dangers of rainbow fentanyl and other substances is far from being a one-time conversation.
As your child grows and develops, they’ll be exposed to new threats and temptations. That’s why it’s important to keep an open flow of communication with your child, so that you can both rely on each other to address any potential issues that arise.
As a parent, the thought of your child being exposed to a substance as dangerous as rainbow fentanyl can feel overwhelming.
That’s why the team at S&G Labs is committed to providing drug-free resources for families in Hawaii and beyond so that we can combat the constantly evolving opioid crisis as a united front.
Learn more about our efforts to provide support for families impacted by rainbow fentanyl today