At least two police departments in Maine have found candy-colored fentanyl and methamphetamine, part of a national trend to make the deadly drugs more appealing to a new generation of users.
Police in Bangor and Farmington reported the seizures to the Maine Information and Analysis Center, an intelligence-gathering service that shares information between the state and federal government, Maine Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Shannon Moss confirmed in an email.
Farmington Chief Ken Charles said the drugs were turned over to police by a family member of someone seeking treatment. No charges were filed and police believe the drug was methamphetamine. In addition to the different colors, they were shaped like dominoes and a Rolls Royce hood ornament. Charles said they were like chewable vitamins for children.
“If they were mixed in a bottle, you’d think they were Flintstones chews,” he said. “It’s a very precarious situation.”
Bangor Sgt. Jason McAmbley said he did not have specifics on how his department found the colorful drugs, but that the drug found in a storage unit was the department’s last major find.
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, has been linked to about 75 percent of drug overdose deaths reported in the first six months of this year, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office. In the first five months of this year, 266 Mainers died of drug overdoses, a 9 percent increase over the same period in 2021.
And in July, Portland Police released data showing that there have already been more overdose deaths in the city this year than all of last year. From January to July 5, police responded to 28 fatal overdoses, surpassing the total of 23 for all of 2021.
That year statewide, 636 Mainers died of a drug overdose, a record.
Maine Drug Enforcement Agency Commander Scott Pelletier said in a statement released to Spectrum News that the methods of “distribution and marketing” of fentanyl continue to change, moving from a powder form to pills that resemble pills and vitamins. by prescription. These changes also make it more difficult for law enforcement to quickly identify which drugs they are dealing with.
“This type of marketing poses an increasing risk to our communities as the deadly drug is disguised as prescription drugs and/or common food items that can be mistaken for harmless,” Pelletier said.
Across the country, reports of candy-colored fentanyl pills have recently surfaced in St. Louis. Louis and Nogales, Arizona.
Andree Swanson, public information officer for the Drug Enforcement Administration Division in St. Louis.
“Drug traffickers will do anything to increase their profits,” Swanson said. “Adding a fashionable color to a drug that kills so easily is just one more way to make money, attracting new buyers. But these traffickers have no regard for the human lives their drugs can claim.”
Last week, US Customs and Border Protection officers in Arizona seized more than 15,000 colored fentanyl pills that were tied to a person’s leg.
Swanson said fentanyl, which is used in medical settings as a pain reliever, is “100 times more dangerous than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin.” Sometimes, people think they are taking some kind of pill when it is actually fentanyl.
“We’re hearing a lot of cases of a teenager taking a pill thinking it’s OxyContin, Xanax or Percocet,” Swanson said. “Since there is no quality control in the production of these counterfeits, children take them and the fentanyl kills them almost instantly.”
Story by Elizabeth Barmeier and Susan Cover. To get more local Maine news, events and weather, download the Spectrum News app.