We’ve been hearing quite a bit about the dangers of those multi-colored ‘rainbow’ fentanyl pills that seem to be finding their way into the American drug market. A DEA alert appeared at the end of August:

Brightly-Colored Fentanyl Used to Target Young Americans

It appears to have generated some anxiety among parents who’ve already faced down the menace of brightly colored laundry pods and THC gummies. Now here comes Halloween, and the inevitable warnings of toxic candy. This time, however, resistance has emerged from the community of experts. Bunk! say they. No such thing!

Rainbow fentanyl candy is just the latest Halloween panic

Those same critics argue that such a thing has never actually happened and probably never will. They say we should file such stories with old urban legends such as the evil neighbor who hides razor blades in those bite-sized chocolate bars. Children as a growth market for drug dealers? Nonsense, they insist. In the first place, they don’t have money! Furthermore, says the article, “Killing people, children included, is bad for business.”

What to do? Do we worry or not?

It’s fair to say the DEA’s original alert was a bit overdramatic. A former agent once explained that to me: “It’s to get people’s attention,” he said. “Otherwise it’ll just go in one ear and out the other, like all the other warnings.” I guess I understand that. Still, that leaves them open to charges of unnecessary fear-mongering.

As if we’re not scared enough already.

On the other hand, the Vox writer’s counter-argument was pretty weak, too. First, somebody who might pass out poisoned Halloween candy is unlikely to be a professional drug dealer. My guess would be either a careless drug user (lot of those around), or a deranged lunatic. There’s no shortage of them, either.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked why a drug dealer would risk killing off his own customers with bad drugs. Just for fun, I put the question to a room full of rehab patients, who found it most amusing. “Who do you think out there selling drugs, man?” laughed one. “They figure somebody else will come along to take your place. All they’re interested in is your money, and they got that.”

I guess the average corner dealer doesn’t worry much about the future.

Plus fentanyl is cheap. Best estimates I could find in the literature put the price on today’s black market at around $5 a dose, up to $25.

I learned to calculate risk in terms of two variables: how likely something is to occur, and also how damaging it would be if it did. Offhand, I think poisoned Halloween candy would be extremely unlikely but potentially devastating to whoever was unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end.

And that leads me back to a familiar rule, one I’ve learned to use over the years when dealing with the upside-down world of drug abuse: “If something can be done, it will be done.” By somebody, somewhere, somehow, at some undetermined time.

So although I’m dead set against fear-mongering, I believe if I had young kids — which I do not — I’d probably buy a sack of candy at Target or wherever and sub it out for the stuff me and the kids collect while trick or treating. Figuring they’ll still eat my candy, no worries.

Seriously, why take a risk? But that’s just me.