This weekend is Halloween trick-or-treating, so parents are looking for strategies to protect their children.
Should parents be concerned about their children’s safety when they are going door to door in light of the news that some Akron middle school students last month became ill after consuming cannabis-infused gummies and growing concern over rainbow fentanyl, which looks like candy?
To get some advice on Halloween safety, we turned to the professionals at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Heather Trnka, the injury prevention supervisor at Akron Children’s Hospital, said, “As we get closer to Halloween, candy safety is obviously something we are always asked about and fentanyl has been in the news quite a bit.” Trnka also serves as the state director of Safe Kids Ohio, a community partnership of people who support injury prevention in the community.
To ease parents’ concerns, Trnka noted that most people don’t give out drugs or candy that has been infused with cannabis to trick-or-treaters.
“That product is low-risk. We are aware that people who obtain fentanyl or other drugs will use them for personal use. We shouldn’t have to worry that our neighbors will give it to us or that it will be distributed as Halloween candy, she said.
Here are some frequently asked queries and responses from Trnka and other Children’s Hospital specialists.
Should Parents Be Concerned About Halloween Candy Laced With Drugs? Local Authorities Comment!
Law enforcement officials across the county are warning parents about the possibility that “rainbow fentanyl” may appear in their children’s Halloween candy hauls, the latest in a long line of Halloween-related scares.
A DEA announcement from late August that claimed the multicolored, candy-like substance was an effort by drug cartels to market fentanyl to children sparked concerns about the pills. The presence of fentanyl pills in Halloween candy is not proven, according to experts, and focusing on rainbow fentanyl diverts attention from the more pressing problem of opioid abuse as overdose deaths in St. Joseph County continue to rise.
Adam Wandt, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and expert on fentanyl trafficking, said, “I think in this particular instance, the DEA is very mistaken about what rainbow fentanyl is and why it looks like that.
According to Wandt’s research, the various colors of pills are intended to serve as a warning to users that they contain fentanyl rather than regular oxycodone. Although some children might be drawn in by the vibrant colors, drug manufacturers do not intend for this to happen.
Sheriff Bill Redman of St. Joseph County expressed his concern about the potential presence of illegal drugs in Michiana after federal agents recently seized a sizable shipment of fentanyl that was allegedly bound for South Bend. Redman acknowledged that he is not aware of any local instances in which Halloween candy has contained harmful substances like rainbow fentanyl.
Health professionals also hope that the rainbow fentanyl craze won’t overshadow more widespread issues with opioid overdoses despite the media attention it has received.
An Increase in Fentanyl
The coroner’s office reports that 2021, with 97 overdose deaths, was the deadliest year in recent memory, surpassing the previous high of 83 in 2020. 74 people from St. Joseph County have died from overdoses so far this year, a sobering statistic Marshall and others attribute to the rising amount of fentanyl in most street drugs.
Prior to the pandemic, Marshall said, “we saw fentanyl in large amounts, but not as widespread as what we see today.” I have never observed fentanyl in cannabis. You occasionally saw fentanyl in cocaine, but not at the levels we see it now. It is much more prevalent.
Experts claim that a number of factors, including a decline in the amount of foreign-origin heroin available in the country, have contributed to the recent perverseness of fentanyl. Fentanyl is more addictive than more naturally occurring substances, is easier to smuggle into the United States, and is also cheaper to manufacture.
With fentanyl increasingly being found in drugs like Xanax, ecstasy, Percocet, and Adderall that young people are more likely to experiment with it because they do not yet have an opioid tolerance, these factors come together to form a dangerous trend.
“We’re not just talking about people in their 20s who are trying drugs. We’re discussing it with children who believed they were poisoned after receiving a Xanax or Adderall, according to Alicia Wells, director of communications at Allendale Treatment near Fort Wayne.
“Not all people who pass away from an overdose are addicts. A significant improvement from ten years ago, she said.
Despite the fact that the oversupply of fentanyl is the main cause of the increase in overdoses, recovery and treatment initiatives that had been making progress were thwarted by COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines. Oaklawn had started a program before the epidemic where “recovery coaches” would respond to overdoses at nearby emergency rooms and provide immediate services to opioid users.
That was shut down during the pandemic but is now restarting, according to Marshall, while regular interactions, such as in-person visits from family and friends, should aid more opioid users in their recovery. Wells added that while the opioid epidemic gave rise to new apps that facilitate virtual connections among users, the desire for real-world interactions still exists. Wells organized Recover Michiana Fest, which held its third annual event at Howard Park in September, in part to foster that human connection.
Wells said, “If we save one life, that’s one life and that’s what matters. That’s what inspires me to keep going when the numbers keep rising.
The drug Narcan, which can reverse an opioid overdose, has also “flooded the community” over the past two or three years, according to health officials.
Wells and Marshall praised the St. Joseph County health and police departments for promoting the fentanyl antidote and claimed that raising awareness of Narcan’s accessibility is one of the most effective ways to stop the rise in overdoses.
Inside the St. Joseph County Jail, police installed a Narcan vending machine, which according to Redman has given out 2,000 doses of the drug since December.
“I believe it turned out very well. Because not every overdose is reported to the police or the health department, we will never know how many potential lives were saved, according to Redman.
Marshall noted that on the third Wednesday of every month, Oaklawn offers classes on the use of Narcan.
While there have been no documented cases of rainbow fentanyl in St. Joseph County, safety is still a concern once trick-or-treating begins.
Officials urged parents to inspect their candy stashes for treats that aren’t properly wrapped or appear suspicious, but an even more pressing concern for parents on Halloween is traffic safety. According to data from the National Transportation Board, Halloween is by far the most dangerous day of the year for crashes involving children, so cautious driving is essential, according to Redman.
“Kids will be less likely to pay attention because they will be running from house to house, darting across the street.” “Please, please, please make sure you’re completely focused on driving,” Redman advised.