PSA: Why the Rainbow Fentanyl Panic is Dangerous

  • Drug dealers are not putting rainbow-colored fentanyl in Halloween candy. Drugs cost money and people who use them don’t give them away. (Also, this is not the first poisoned candy myth.)
  • The current panic began with an August 30th DEA press release. Many media outlets, including NBC, picked up this press release and ran it.
  • Different colored drugs have always been a thing—as well as giving them names and so on. See Dr. Sheila Vakharia’s comments here.
  • Like with the fentanyl exposure myth, this panic works to raise collective fear of the drug and of people who use the drug. It fosters stigma. It also fosters sympathy for law enforcement and increases the likelihood that the public will support putting more money for the war on drugs which has been a failure by all measures.
  • When people are afraid of fentanyl and afraid of people who may have used it, help for someone overdosing may be delayed.
  • However, there a crisis in the United States. Last year, more than 107,000 people died of an overdose. In Ohio over 5,200 people died from an overdose last year according to the CDC. That’s 14 people a day. Ohio has one of the highest death rates in the U.S.
  • Most of those deaths were because of fentanyl. Fentanyl has poisoned the drug supply and it is in many drugs that young people experiment with—pills, cocaine. This is scary and young people should know this and be careful because overdose deaths among teens doubled in 2020.
  • Fentanyl testing strips are a simple way to test drugs before using them. They are simple to use and relatively easy to access.
  • Naloxone saves lives and is also easy to use. If you suspect someone is overdosing (look for slow breathing, change in skin color, pinpoint pupils), use it. If you don’t, use rescue breaths. Here’s a great resource.
  • The overdose crisis is a serious issue. People we love and care for, people who are a part of our community, are dying. Let’s treat it like the serious issue it is and spread facts and helpful information.
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