Debunking the myth of drugs in Halloween candy

Halloween candy sales up 17% over last year, with 3 weeks left to go
Posted at 2:15 PM, Oct 26, 2022

Every year around October, there are scares that Halloween candy is being laced with drugs.

Most years, the concerns revolve around marijuana and THC, but this year they have spread to the presence of fentanyl.

On Oct. 6, 13 Republican senators across the country released a PSA warning of “rainbow fentanyl” ahead of Halloween saying, “Drug cartels are coming after your kids.”

The announcement is in reference to a PSA from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on August 30. DEA administrator Anne Milgram said, “The bright colors, shapes, and sizes [of fentanyl pills], is a deliberate effort by drug traffickers to drive addiction amongst kids and young adults.”

Shireen Banerji, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Poison Center, said in 21 years, she has never seen a credible case of candy mixed with THC or fentanyl.

“People could use any kind of chemical to contaminate candy. Again, it’s unsubstantiated,” she said. “Pharmaceutically, [fentanyl] is a powder that is usually compressed as a pill to look like another kind of a pill, like a narcotic, and so there’s no such thing as a fentanyl edible. It would be something where the person would have to manipulate the candy to push the fentanyl inside of it so again, that doesn’t seem like a likely presentation of contaminating candy with fentanyl.”

The most recent numbers from America’s Poison Centers, which compiles numbers from 66 poison control centers in U.S. states and territories, support Banerji's claim.

In 2020, poison control centers across the country responded to 2.1 million human exposure reports across all age groups. The leading cause was pain relievers (10%), cleaning supplies (8%), and cosmetics (6.5%).

Number 11 on the list is stimulants and street drugs, which comprise all drugs and not just fentanyl, at 3.3% of reports.

Exposure reports for dietary supplements, herbal supplements, and antihistamines were all higher.

Despite the statistics, there's nothing wrong with parents inspecting their children's candy.

Banerji says any candy in adulterated packaging should be tossed out, but she says the chances someone is intentionally spending their drug money on contaminating kids’ candy is incredibly low.