“Rainbow” Fentanyl-Related Overdoses Among Youth Trigger DEA, DSHS Warnings
By Amy Lynn Sorrel

In the wake of a series of overdoses and deaths in Hays County, Texas public health and federal law enforcement agencies have released advisories about multicolored or “rainbow” fentanyl.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns the colors could lead children to mistake them for candy and make them more appealing to young people.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, proving lethal with as little as two milligrams. Symptoms of overdose can include slowed breathing; dizziness or confusion; unresponsiveness; and pale, blue, or cold skin, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).  

“In Texas, the incidence of fentanyl-related deaths has climbed sharply, with 214 deaths attributed to fentanyl in 2018 and 1,672 fentanyl-related deaths in 2021,” a nearly 90% increase, according to preliminary data, DSHS reports.  

The agency recommends physicians and other health care professionals educate and counsel patients about illicit drug supply, as well as risks for overdose and exposure to highly potent opioids such as illegally manufactured fentanyl.   

DSHS also has the following recommendations:  

  • If symptoms are compatible, consider opioid overdose even in children or patients without a known history of opioid use.  
  • Use the opioid reversal agent naloxone per protocol when opioid overdose is suspected, and be aware that “more and prolonged administrations may be required to fully reverse an overdose,” DSHS said. 
  • First responders should practice standard safety precautions, including use of appropriate personal protective equipment. 

Public health officials also remind physicians that state law requires them and any person treating an overdose of certain controlled substances to notify DSHS within 24 hours.  

Last Updated On

September 29, 2022

Originally Published On

September 27, 2022

Related Content


Amy Lynn Sorrel

Associate Vice President, Editorial Strategy & Programming
Division of Communications and Marketing

(512) 370-1384
Amy Sorrel

Amy Lynn Sorrel has covered health care policy for nearly 20 years. She got her start in Chicago after earning her master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and went on to cover health care as an award-winning writer for the American Medical Association, and as an associate editor and managing editor at TMA. Amy is also passionate about health in general as a cancer survivor, avid athlete, traveler, and cook. She grew up in California and now lives in Austin with her Aggie husband and daughter.

More stories by Amy Sorrel