No One Is Luring Kids With “rainbow Fentanyl”

On August 30, the DEA alerted parents of America to an “emerging trend” of colored fentanyl pills. According to DEA Administrator Ann Milgram, the color of the pills is “a deliberate attempt by drug dealers to create addiction in children and young people.” But is it?

At a press conference shortly thereafter, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer showed a photo of a banned fentanyl pill and candy and said, “It’s fentanyl, it’s sweetie pie. Tell me what the difference is,” and added, “Halloween is coming… it’s really disturbing and very dangerous.” But is it?

Taken together, these claims are terrifying – what could be worse than drug dealers slipping fentanyl into candy for our kids? Fortunately, these fears are mostly nonsense. Over the past decade or so, a cloud of misinformation has swirled around fentanyl, with politicians, the media, and law enforcement fanning myths and half-truths around the drug, and “dealers seek to get kids to use fentanyl” is just the latest.

The truth about fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid agonist 100 times more potent than morphine . It was developed in the early 1960s and was primarily prescribed as a pain reliever for cancer patients. The illegal use of this substance did not become widespread until the 2000s. Between 2005 and 2007, the DEA identified over 1,000 deaths related to the illicit manufacture of fentanyl, and the number of overdoses has steadily increased since then—in 2016, the DEA attributed about 20,000 US deaths to synthetic opioids . By all accounts, it is a dangerous, highly addictive, often lethal drug that should only be used under medical supervision.

Why are there so many fentanyl myths?

From whipping up hysteria about refrigerated trucks in the 1940s to warnings of a coming “crack baby” epidemic in the 1980s, forces in the United States have long used drug disinformation to promote various political and social agendas.

John Erlichman, Richard Nixon’s head of domestic policy, spoke about the game in an interview with Harper’s magazine back in the 1990s. According to Erlichman, the Nixon administration used the drug policy to strike at its political enemies. “By getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then heavily criminalizing both, we could destroy those communities,” Ehrlichman said. “We could arrest their leaders, ransack their homes, disrupt their meetings, and vilify them on the evening news night after night. Did we know we were lying about drugs? Of course we did it.”

My guess is that both Schumer and the DEA may be making honest mistakes about fentanyl, but on the other hand, it’s election season, the DEA is asking for funds for border control, and the Democratic Party wants funds for efforts to fighting the opioid epidemic so you can do the math.

With that said, let’s dispel some common fentanyl myths.

Myth #1: Dealers dye fentanyl to attract kids.

Colored fentanyl pills were confiscated by law enforcement, but the DEA’s description of this as “a deliberate attempt by drug dealers to create addiction in children and young people” doesn’t even make sense. Kids don’t have money, so why would drug dealers hook them up on anything? Why would dealers risk the legal consequences of selling lethal drugs to children Linking fentanyl to Halloween candy is just as silly—they’re called drug dealers , not drug dealers. Advising drug users to keep their drugs away from children would be more honest and helpful.

The real reason illegal drug makers color their products brightly, according to the Memphis harm reduction program A Betor Way ? For years, dealers have been coloring fentanyl as a marketing tactic or a way to inform users about the strength of the pills. “Different colors mean different strengths, ” former user Brad Yaki explained . “You would try to get good stuff or the most powerful stuff you could get.”

According to some harm reduction experts, colors are actually helpful. “Fake pills that are clearly fake help them understand that they are not getting the oxycodone they are used to, but something more powerful,” says Dr. Nabarun Dasgupta, a harm reduction researcher at New York University. Carolina in Chapel Hill told Filter .

Myth #2: You can overdose on fentanyl by touching or inhaling it.

One of the most common dubious claims about fentanyl is that you can overdose just by touching it or inhaling it. Despite many anecdotal reports from law enforcement officials, “the risk of clinically significant impact on emergency responders is extremely low,” the report said. joint statement from the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology.

“Fentanyl is not absorbed [through hardness],” clinical toxicologist Joshua Radke told Emergency Medical News . “That’s why drug companies have had to spend years and millions of dollars developing a special patch to deliver fentanyl into the body through the skin.”

It’s also unlikely to get high or overdose from inhaling fentanyl, Radke said. “Fentanyl has a low vapor pressure, which means it would be difficult to let large amounts float in the air. Even if that were the case, you would have to inhale it for a very long time, like hours, to get a significant amount into your bloodstream,” he said.

Law enforcement reports of overdoses may actually be related to the fentanyl hysteria: some psychologists suggest that cases where first responders touched a fence and appeared to hyperventilate or pass out could be related to some sort of mass psychogenic disease or simple panic attacks. Real overdose victims slowly stop breathing until they die – they don’t go crazy.

Myth #3: Drug dealers mix marijuana with fentanyl

It is well known that drug dealers often mix fentanyl with other drugs or pass it off as xanax, cocaine, oxycodone. But so far, there are no confirmed reports of fent appearing in grass. It also fails a basic logic test: unlike cocaine or hydroxy, marijuana is relatively inexpensive and available in abundance. A merchant adding fentanyl to a pot will make their product more expensive, increase the potential legal consequences for selling it, and risk killing their customers. However, none of this discourages politicians from warning us about it.

Myth #4: Fentanyl is so effective that it doesn’t respond to naloxone to prevent overdose.

One of the more hysterical rumors surrounding fentanyl is that the drug does not respond to naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdose. This is not the case, although the effectiveness of fentanyl may require respondents to use more naloxone than they would need to overdose on heroin or another opiate.

Myth #5: Drug Enforcement Administration Street Names for Fentanyl (Undetermined)

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration , fentanyl street names include Apache, China Girl, China Town, China White, Dance Fever, Goodfellas, Great Bear, He-Man, Poison, and Tango & Cash. I have no idea how many of these terms are actually used, but “fetty” is missing and I believe it’s much more common than “Tango and Cash”. For context, the DEA also says that people refer to marijuana as “weed” – a nickname last used by George Carlin in 1983 – and “Pink Panther”, which doesn’t even make sense.

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