‘Rainbow fentanyl’ on Tucson streets, police warn parents to be on lookout for drug that resembles candy

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) – The fentanyl epidemic is in full swing, and Tucson police and state poisons and drug experts are warning parents and young people about a new breed of fentanyl.

“Rainbow Fentanyl” is a multi-colored pill that looks like candy, and there are concerns about how it might be marketed to children.

Capt. John Leavitt said thousands of fentanyl pills are found on the streets every day, and about every 10th bust contains rainbow fentanyl.

“We have confiscated an unlimited supply of pills. There’s well over a million pills in southern Arizona, maybe even 10 million pills in southern Arizona in the last few years,” Leavitt said.

On the street, people refer to them as “kegels” because they can look cute. Some of the drugs may even look like sidewalk chalk.

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Leavitt said although the drugs may look harmless, just one pill can be deadly.

“They want to make money, they want to do that. You want to increase your sales. It appears to be an attempt by the maker of these pills to offer something different to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market in order to have a competitive advantage,” Leavitt said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, and 66% of those deaths were related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

In Pima County, nearly 500 people overdosed last year. Leavitt said we’re on track to seeing the same trend this year.

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“Our biggest fear is that young people don’t understand the seriousness of fentanyl and what it could do to them, and it could end up killing them,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said they haven’t seen rainbow fentanyl in our local schools but are concerned kids are buying it outside of school.

TPD records show there have been no reports of anyone dying from rainbow fentanyl in Tucson to date.

But in Phoenix, Daniel Brooks, medical director at the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, said they deal with at least 10 fentanyl overdoses a week.

He said the drug, which looks like candy, doesn’t help the problem.

“It’s ridiculous. Making marijuana edibles look like a candy bar. Who would do that? Or gummy bears? … It’s ridiculous, but our community has accepted that, and now the illegal drug dealers who make fentanyl are following suit It’s just incredibly dangerous and frustrating for us,” Brooks said.

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According to Leavitt, the best way to protect your children is to educate them about the drug and what can happen if they use it.

If you find pills at home that are not prescribed, call the police to find out what the drug is and where your child got it from.

Leavitt said that way they could do their best to eliminate the source.

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