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The Halloween ‘rainbow fentanyl’ scare is mostly a get out the vote effort by politicians

The rainbow fentanyl panic overshadows a drug overdose crisis that kills more than 100,000 Americans every year.

Misinformation: An irresistible moral panic

Drug users have no reason to give away expensive drugs they are themselves addicted to on Halloween. And drug dealers, who are presumably in business to make money, have no reason to give away expensive drugs for free.

Politics: Midterms are coming

The Biden administration has moved to shift U.S. drug policy more toward the demand side, supporting harm-reduction measures that promote safe drug use over imprisonment — for the first time ever on the federal level. This has already generated pushback from Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who in February decried a $30 million federal grant to pay for treatment referrals, disease tests, condoms and vaccinations, as well as safe smoking kits, as paying for “crack pipes” sent to Black communities. The White House explained the kits, in reality, contain alcohol swabs, lip balm and other materials meant to reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.

Health: The overdose crisis

In some ways, the colored pills are safer because they tell users right away that they contain fentanyl, said Jon Zibbell, a senior public health scientist at RTI International, a nonprofit institute headquartered in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The danger of a drug scare over Halloween fentanyl, he added, is that it might discredit urgent messages about fentanyl in counterfeit pills and street drugs, which is what is killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.

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