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Rainbow fentanyl – the latest horror news for Halloween

(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis, and commentary from academic experts.)

(THE CONVERSATION) Every year around mid-October, reporters approach me to talk about rumors of tainted Halloween treats.

This is because I track cases in the media where trick-or-treaters have received razor blades in apples or pins and poison in candies. 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 tainted treat picked up while trick-or-treating.

This often surprises people who assume that Halloween sadism is very real and very common.

Stories about tainted delicacies can best be interpreted as contemporary legends. These are tales we’ve all heard and been assured are true. They warn us that we live in a dangerous world full of evil strangers who can harm us if we are not careful.

This year, reporters began reaching out earlier than usual in late September to talk about a new alleged threat: “rainbow fentanyl.”

The children are next

Fentanyl is a very powerful synthetic opioid that has caused thousands of overdoses and deaths over the past two decades. In August 2022, drug control authorities found that pills containing fentanyl were being manufactured in different colors. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said, “Rainbow fentanyl—fentanyl pills and powders that come in a variety of bright colors, shapes, and sizes—is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to create addiction among children and young adults.

Many news outlets covered this story, including the idea that the colors might be some kind of marketing ploy to attract younger drug users. But then some started associating rainbow fentanyl with Halloween.

In a September 20, 2022 Fox News interview, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel stated, “Every mother in the country is worried, what if this ends up in my kid’s Halloween basket?” Other Fox commentators suggested that parents wanted to protect their children by not letting them go trick-or-treating this year. And in a testament to the bipartisan appeal of protecting children, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Democrat, repeated the warnings.

September crime sets it up

It is worth considering what is familiar and what is new in these warnings.

One fairly common element is the willingness of commentators to connect September’s crime news with the possibility that it might foreshadow what might happen on Halloween.

In 1982, there was a spate of Tylenol poisoning—seven people died after buying and consuming counterfeit packets of the pill. Many commentators then warned that parents should be extra vigilant when investigating Halloween treats. These deaths also led to a dramatic increase in protective packaging for all kinds of products to prevent tampering.

Similarly, the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to rumors of the 2001 Halloween threats—that they were planning to attack a mall where some parents had let their children go trick-or-treating, or that the terrorists had bought huge amounts of candy, presumably to poison the treats before handing them out. them.

Trends in recreational or illicit drug use often lead to Halloween warnings. In 2014, the year Colorado first allowed state-licensed retail sales of recreational marijuana, Denver police posted online warnings that parents should be on the lookout for THC-laced candies in Halloween treats. After Halloween, however, a spokesperson for the department admitted, “We are not aware of any cases of children consuming marijuana-laced candy during the Halloween season.”

Similarly, in 2019, September reports of deaths due to the destruction of black-market THC-infused cartridges were coupled with news that Pennsylvania authorities had confiscated commercial THC candies — allegedly smuggled from a state where they could be legally purchased — for another Halloween generate . warnings.

The irrationality of it all

One glaring hole in these concerns is that drugs tend to cost more than candy—for example, edible marijuana costs about a dollar or two per serving.

Fentanyl is significantly more expensive. It’s not unreasonable to wonder what a fentanyl dealer’s overall goal might be in passing the drug off as candy. The idea that a school-age child would go from being an accidental fentanyl user to a paying addict is far-fetched.

Of course, the villains of contemporary legends cannot be expected to behave rationally. Ask why gang members try to kill motorists who flash their headlights at them — an urban legend from the 1980s — and the answer is likely to be, “That kind of sadistic person. It might not make sense for someone to give a small child a brightly colored opioid pill or THC-filled candy, but it’s not impossible, right? This argument is believed to justify sounding the alarm.

There is often a grain of truth in these fears. Of course, fentanyl is a dangerous drug. But American history is full of witches, immigrants, drugs, conspiracies, etc. can also be read as a long list of related fears. These fears appear as a reflection of current social changes. Yes, things are always changing and that can always scare some people. But it is also true that, in retrospect, these fears are usually exaggerated.

What appears to be new in describing rainbow fentanyl as a Halloween hazard is the willingness of major political figures and media outlets to spread the warnings. Most past claims of Halloween sadism lack such prominent spokespeople.

But at a time when many news outlets seem intent on keeping their audiences by scaring them, and when increased political polarization has stalled efforts to develop workable social policies, calls to protect our children from the threats of drug dealers take us back to Halloween: offers new ways to scare people.

This article has been republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here:

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