Rainbow Fentanyl – the latest Halloween horror
(The Conversation) – Every year around mid-October, reporters start contacting me to discuss rumors of contaminated Halloween treats.
That’s because I follow media coverage of reported incidents of trick-or-treaters getting razor blades in apples or pins and poison in candy bars. My data goes back to 1958, and my main finding is simple: I can find no evidence that a child has ever been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat ingested while trick-or-treating.
This often surprises people who assume that Halloween sadism is both very real and widespread.
Tales of contaminated treats are best understood as contemporary legends. They are stories we have all heard and been assured are true. They warn that we live in a dangerous world full of vicious strangers who could harm us if we’re not careful.
That year, in late September, reporters began reaching out earlier than usual, wanting to talk about a new alleged threat: “rainbow fentanyl.”
Children are next
Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid that has caused thousands of drug overdoses and deaths over the past two decades. In August 2022, drug law enforcement agencies discovered that pills containing fentanyl were made in different colors. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said: “Rainbow Fentanyl — fentanyl pills and powder that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes and sizes — is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to promote addiction in children and young adults. “
Many news outlets reported on this story, including the notion that the colors could be some kind of marketing ploy to attract younger drug users. But then some people started associating Rainbow Fentanyl with Halloween.
In an interview with Fox News on September 20, 2022, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel stated, “Every mom in the country is worried, what if that ends up in my kid’s Halloween basket?” Other Fox commentators suggested that parents might want to protect their kids by not letting them go trick or treating this year. And to prove the bipartisan appeal for child protection, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, repeated the warning.
Crime in September lays the foundation
It’s worth considering what’s known and what’s new about these alerts.
A fairly common element is commentators’ willingness to link September’s crime news to the possibility that they could predict what might happen on Halloween.
1982 saw a spate of Tylenol poisoning – seven people died after buying and consuming tampered with pill packs. Many commenters then warned that parents need to be extra vigilant when examining Halloween treats. These deaths also led to a dramatic increase in protective packaging for all types of products to prevent tampering.
Similarly, the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to rumors of Halloween 2001 threats – that there were plans to attack a mall where some parents were letting their children go trick-or-treating, or that terrorists had bought huge amounts of candy, presumably they were could poison the treats before handing them out.
Trends in recreational or illicit drug use often make the jump to Halloween warnings. In 2014, the year Colorado first allowed state-licensed retail sales of recreational marijuana, the Denver Police Department posted online warnings that parents should keep an eye out for edible candy containing THC in Halloween treats. But after Halloween was over, a department spokesman admitted, “We are not aware of any instances of children using marijuana candy during the Halloween season.”
Similarly, in September 2019, reports of deaths caused by vaping THC-infused cartridges on the black market were coupled with news that Pennsylvania authorities had seized commercial THC candies — allegedly smuggled out of a state in where they could be legally bought – to create another round of Halloween alerts.
The irrationality of it all
An obvious hole in these concerns is that drugs tend to cost more than candy — marijuana edibles, for example, cost anywhere near a dollar or two per dose or more.
Fentanyl is significantly more expensive. It’s not unreasonable to wonder what a fentanyl dealer’s overall goal might be when passing off the drug as candy. The assumption that a school-age child would go from being an accidental fentanyl user to a paying addict is far-fetched.
Of course, the villains in contemporary legends are not expected to behave rationally. Ask why gang members would try to kill motorists who squint at their headlights—a 1980s urban legend—and the likely answer is, “That’s exactly what these sadistic people do.” It doesn’t like anyone Giving a young child a colorful opioid pill or THC-infused candy makes sense, but it’s not impossible, is it? Such reasoning is believed to justify ringing alarm bells.
There is often a grain of truth in these fears. Certainly, fentanyl is a dangerous drug. But American history can be read as a long line of fears about witches, immigrants, drugs, conspirators and so on. These fears emerge as reflections of current societal changes. Yes, things are always changing, and that can always scare some people. But it is also true that in hindsight these fears are mostly exaggerated.
What is new about the description of rainbow fentanyl as a Halloween hazard is the willingness of major political figures and news media to spread the warning. Most previous claims of Halloween sadism lack such prominent speakers.
But at a time when many news outlets seem intent on preserving their audiences by scaring them, and rising political polarization seems to be deadlocking efforts to develop workable social policies, calls to protect ours bring us Bringing kids back into the spirit of Halloween from the threats of boogeyman drug dealers: offers new ways to scare people.
https://www.woodtv.com/news/nexstar-media-wire/rainbow-fentanyl-the-newest-halloween-scare/ Rainbow Fentanyl - the latest Halloween horror