SAN DIEGO — August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day. Synthetic opioids such as, fentanyl are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the United States.
Now, the Drug Enforcement Administration has a new warning about the rise of 'rainbow fentanyl.'
The county administration building was lit up purple Wednesday night to honor the 1,300 lives lost due to drug overdoses in San Diego over the past year, fentanyl accounted for as many as 800 deaths.
Most overdose deaths in the nation are being linked to fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times more potent than heroin
Rainbow fentanyl looks like candy and comes in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes and they’re being used to target children and young adults.
“We know that there’s really no bounds to the creativity of the cartels who are selling and profiting off these drugs,” said Randy Grossman, U.S. Attorney, Southern District of California.
San Diego and Imperial counties account for about 60% of the fentanyl being seized around the entire country.
Grossman says the new form of fentanyl is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction.
“We know that the cartel is profit-driven, and their goal is to put as many drugs in the hands of users as much as possible," said Grossman. "So it can drive up their profit and they're going to use as many creative means that they can,”
Rainbow fentanyl has been seized in at least 18 states so far.
The DEA states that the different colors don’t necessarily indicate a higher potency level and that every color should be considered extremely dangerous.
“You don’t know what you’re getting right now," said Grossman. "Now is not the time to be experimenting with one oxy pill or with a small amount of cocaine…that experiment can cost you your life,”
Fentanyl-related prosecutions are up 1,600% in just the past five years in San Diego.
Grossman says he realized that officials won’t be able to prosecute their way out of the crisis and will be focusing heavily on prevention strategies.
WATCH RELATED: San Diego: The epicenter of fentanyl trafficking (August 2022)