Last post we addressed the mistaken and comical notion that fentanyl dealers were planning to give away their product in doses that would kill their prospective customers. It represents the latest in a series of putative Halloween horrors that has included poisoned candy, satanic kidnapping rings, insane clown posses, and convicted sex offenders luring prey with Butterfingers and Baby Ruths.
As the SkepChick Rebecca Watson humorously noted, such terrors being associated with this time of year is in one way fitting. But rather than being a genuine fright like terrorism or war, these are in the same fictitious vein as zombies and vampires.
Besides being the most recent urban legends associated with All Hallows Eve, the drug-dealing urban legend also has something in common with another contemporary moral panic: The notion of cloths being soaked with a powerful sedative that incapacitates the victim, who is then robbed, abducted, or raped.
Madison Dapcevich at Lead Stories looked into this and found no evidence to support the notion of attempted vehicle entries being foiled by nasty napkins, poisoned papers, or terrorizing tissues.
Dapcevich learned that earlier this summer, social media began posting warnings about these events, with fentanyl usually being the drug of choice. She spoke with University of Florida epidemiology professor Linda Cottler who told her, “These are not accurate suggestions and there is no scientific evidence of this.”
Moreover, accidental skin contact with fentanyl has been described by the Harm Reduction Journal as medically impossible. Similarly, researchers at Cambridge University exposed a test subject to a 10 microgram solution of pharmaceutical fentanyl citrate by placing the solution on the person’s hand. No opioid intoxication or overdose resulted and the substance easily washed away.
Dapcevich additionally cited a 2020 study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology which found opioids inefficiently absorb through the skin. And there’s more. A 2017 report by the American College of Medical Toxicology and the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology determined that fentanyl being delivered through the skin would require “200 minutes of breathing fentanyl at the highest airborne concentrations to yield a therapeutic dose” and even then it would “not a potentially fatal one.” As Dapcevich explained, “To reach dangerous blood levels, a person would need to soak their limbs in such a solution for an extended period of time.”
It’s no wonder that social media posts sounding the alarm about this supposed issue seldom include a location or date. No criminal is ever apprehended, no victim is ever identified or rescued.
A similar panicky claim, documented by the Daily Dot’s Audra Schroeder, ties dollar bills left under car windshield wipers to human trafficking. Trafficking is a genuine phenomenon but it is done by those who know their victims and groom them over time. The victims are generally destitute and usually from another country, with limited language skills. They may likewise struggle with addiction and homelessness. As one levelheaded poster put it, the urban legends twist these notions so that they focus on “middle class white women being trafficked,” an idea “that completely overshadows reality.”
So when taking their children to safely Trick or Treat, mothers can open their car doors without worry.