SALT LAKE CITY -- It's a new and alarming trend on the ecstasy market: pills that resemble chewable vitamins. And it's prevalent right here in Utah.
In the past, round, colored tablets were the most popular form of the party drug. But a newer version is turning up, and it merits a caution for parents.
The pills look amazingly similar to some of the chewable vitamins we all used to take as children, and the reasons ecstasy manufacturers are doing this may surprise you.
Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bart Simpson are just some of the newest vitamin-look-alike E tablets on the market.
Detectives in Texas busted someone with these pills, and now Utah authorities say it's happening here as well, especially with teens and college-age students.
Mike Root, with Salt Lake Metro DEA, says there are three main reasons for selling these types of pills. The first is a marketing scheme, similar to brand naming.
Root says the vitamin look-alike branding helps the drug more easily spread through message boards on the Internet and are more decernible than a simple red, yellow or blue pill.
Since ecstasy is usually distributed at parties, concerts or music festivals without knowledge of where it came from, giving the drug a manufactured look makes it seem safer to users.
"There's a feeling that these may be professionally-made versus being made in somebody's backyard or garage or shed," Root explained.
In reality, the pills are not safer because there still no regulations or controls on their manufacturers.
Federal agents say E is generally taken by 18- to 22-year-olds, but some high school students use it as well. In that case, hiding it from adults is key, which is made easier with these pills.
"If a parent would find this, or a teacher maybe, or somebody unsuspecting might say, ‘Hey, those are vitamins or candy or something like that,'" Root said.
Detectives also fear that if left out, younger siblings may think it's really candy or vitamins. That could be deadly.
Federal agents say parents should be aware of all medications and vitamins your child is taking, and make sure the candy they're eating is really what they say it is.
Here are some more suggestions Root gives to keep your children safe:
- Ask if your child knows who makes the pills
- Ask your child if they are readily available
- If you see your child with a pill, ask for it's name
- Research the drug on your own. It can be as dangerous as heroin, cocaine or any other drug