FACT OR FICTION: Are reports of fentanyl in Halloween candy true?

Rumors are swirling about the threat of children getting a synthetic opioid in their trick-or-treat bags this year—right next to the Kit Kat bars and Skittles.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 12:52 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 25, 2022 at 9:08 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Halloween is right around the corner, and rumors are swirling about the threat of children getting a synthetic opioid in their trick-or-treat bags this year—right next to their Kit Kat bars and Skittles.

Experts, however, say parents should be more concerned about other risks.

Fentanyl is a powerful and potentially deadly opioid, and it is lurking in communities across the Lowcountry and the nation.

“It’s reported to be 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. It’s serious stuff,” Alexis Little, the Toxicology Product Manager at Any Lab Test Now, says. “About two milligrams, depending on your body size and your tolerance to opioids in general, is enough to be fatal.”

Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl are increasing rapidly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and now, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is warning about a special type of the drug: rainbow fentanyl.

“The ‘candies,’ (I will put that in quotes), that have been seized are typically multicolored candies,” Dr. Elizabeth Mack, the Division Chief of Pediatric Critical Care at MUSC, says. “They might look like skittles or sugar cubes.”

Posts on social media and even some news reports circulating might make you think this brightly colored drug is likely to be lurking in your children’s candy bag after a night of trick-or-treating.

“It wouldn’t be Halloween without something to scare parents,” Little says.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports fentanyl and other opioids are extremely dangerous and deadly — particularly for some demographics — it’s unlikely children are the intended targets for the drug, according to Little.

“I think the risk for children and for it popping in bags of Halloween candy is extremely low,” Little says.

There are much more pressing and prevalent risks for your children this Halloween other than fentanyl in their candy, Mack says.

“Certainly I wouldn’t dismiss it, but thankfully we haven’t seen it or haven’t recognized it if we have seen it in any children here,” she says. “Children are more likely to be hit by a car on that day of the year than any other day. It’s a really big day unfortunately for kids with food allergies, as well.”

Mack has some advice ahead of this Halloween: Walk with your children as they trick-or-treat and make sure all their candy is wrapped and labeled. Another one of her concerns for children and families is illnesses.

“Infectious diseases are going to be a real risk this Halloween,” she says. “It’s important to wash our hands, be vaccinated before we get out and about and mingle with others and touch other people and other people’s things.