SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego County schools are joining the effort to warn parents about a drug targeting teens.
Rainbow fentanyl is made to look like candy to attract young people.
Last year, there were more than 1,100 overdose deaths in San Diego including 34 people under the age of 21.
This year is the first time authorities have seen rainbow fentanyl and worry that could lead to more overdoses in children and young adults.
The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District sent parents a letter Tuesday warning them about the brightly-colored synthetic opioids.
"It can resemble the candy Smarties so we feel it's especially important to be alert around Halloween time," the letter said.
"It's definitely a concerning trend," said Dr. Willough Jenkins, a child psychiatrist at Rady Children's Hospital.
Dr. Jenkins said opioid overdoses among youth have only increased over the past several years.
What's new is how the drug is now being marketed to teens.
"The risks and the stakes are very, very high because it is life or death when we're talking about fentanyl," Dr. Jenkins said.
Dr. Jenkins said because of the bright colors some teens may think the drug is not as harmful.
She said now is the time to have open and honest conversations with your children about drug use.
"It definitely warrants the conversation with children that any pills that are being distributed are not safe and we shouldn't be taking any pills if they're not coming from a doctor or prescription," Dr. Jenkins.
Last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced it would provide schools with Narcan, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses.
Dr. Jenkins said parents should do the same if their child may be using drugs or is exposed to drugs.
"Because Narcan is very effective and I don't think enough people have access to it promptly or are aware of it," she said.