Rainbow fentanyl in Halloween candy? Experts call the panic ‘stupid’

  • The emergence of rainbow-colored fentanyl has caused a stir that the drug is targeting children ahead of Halloween.
  • But experts are widely calling the panic overblown, saying parents shouldn’t worry about kids getting rainbow fentanyl during a trick or treat.
  • There have always been fears that Halloween candy is poisoned, but there is little evidence that this happens.

A cautionary tale has developed a new twist this year, as an alarming opioid has become the latest Halloween drug to fear.

It’s a yearly tradition for people to raise concerns about drugs like marijuana edibles or dangerous items like needles inside holiday candy. But this time was different, at least for Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, who has spent decades studying the fear of tainted Halloween treats.

“This year has been particularly unusual because prominent figures have pointed to a particular danger, which of course is the danger of rainbow fentanyl,” Best told USA TODAY. “It’s been very strange.”

Best, who spends every year speaking with the media about Halloween drug hoaxes, said he normally receives interview requests about two weeks before the holiday, but this year he received requests early september.

Rainbow fentanyl has become the latest concern for some Americans since the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public service announcement on Aug. 30 warning that the colored opioid is “made to look like… sweets for children and young people”.

The best further panic ensued when Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a September interview with Fox News that parents were worried about whether the rainbow fentanyl pills would end up in Halloween baskets. It wasn’t long after Senate Republicans released a public service announcement about drugs and Halloween.

But in all of his years of study, Best found no evidence of poisoned or fake candy injuring or killing children on Halloween, other than when a Texas father poisoned his son’s Halloween candy in the 1970s. He doesn’t expect anything to happen this time around.

“That’s silly,” Best said. “No one will give it to little children.”

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“Absolutely ridiculous”

Drug experts agree with Best that it doesn’t seem plausible that rainbow fentanyl will be distributed as Halloween candy.

Dr. Caleb Banta-Green, director of the Center for Community-Engaged Drug Education, Epidemiology and Research at the University of Washington, said it’s true pastel colors are linked to candy, but that’s just for kids. who are attracted to it. He said the goal of drug traffickers is to maximize profits, and that cannot be done by giving it to children for free or asking them to pay when they probably don’t have the money.

“That’s just not your target audience. It just isn’t,” Banta-Green said.

In recent weeks, drug busts around the country have resulted in the presence of rainbow fentanyl in items such as Lego containers, only adding to concerns that children are being targeted. David Herzberg, an associate professor of history at the University at Buffalo who studies the history of drug addiction in America, added that opioids are hidden in things like candy boxes and toy containers to facilitate smuggling.

What’s more, he adds that giving kids rainbow fentanyl increases the chances of being arrested, making it a “colossally stupid business move.”

“Giving your product away to a group of kids for free, who are going to die, causes the authorities to come after you like no one has ever seen before, for the benefit of your competitors,” Herzberg said. “This is all absolutely ridiculous.”

How did the fear of drugs on Halloween originate?

Part of Herzberg’s research involves understanding how illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals have shaped the nation’s opinions and culture. He said the fear of children being poisoned dates back to Prohibition in the 1920s and continued into the 1960s with the rise of heroin.

The reasoning behind the fear is extreme cynicism, and there are political motivations behind the fear, Herzberg continues. The belief is that children and adolescents are innocent and fall prey to drug traffickers, which favors people who want tougher law enforcement and tougher penalties for drug users. He adds that playing with people’s fears leads to support.

“The assumption is that there are groups of people who just don’t want or have any natural inclination to use drugs,” he said. “It’s a claim that was made, but it’s not true and it’s not true today either.”

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Turn panic into conversation

Amid the panic and fear of the spread of rainbow fentanyl this Halloween, Banta-Green sees this as an opportunity for parents to talk — without scolding or panicking — about the dangers of rainbow fentanyl.

“If you’re going to have a conversation with your kids, those are productive conversations to have. Scaring them about something that won’t happen isn’t productive,” he said. “Every interaction between child and child about health is an opportunity, and many parents don’t take those opportunities very often.”

There are different ways to approach conversations, as Banta-Green has spoken to children of all ages about opioid safety. When it comes to young children, he recommends understanding that parents should be the only ones giving them pills or medicine. By the time kids are in middle school or high school, that’s when parents can learn about the dangers of illegal drugs like rainbow fentanyl and what to do if someone one is in a life or death situation if he took drugs.

Best and drug experts agree that drugs, or anything appearing to be drugs, are unlikely to be passed out on Halloween. If a parent has concerns, Banta-Green suggests simply allowing children to have wrapped and marked candy, but leave the fear to ghosts and goblins.

“Could something really weird happen as an outlier? Yeah. Is it a one-in-a-million event? Yeah. I don’t live my life around one-in-a-million event, and I hope that neither do the other parents,” he said. .

Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.

Rainbow fentanyl in Halloween candy? Experts call the panic 'stupid'

USA Today

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