WINSTON COUNTY - Halloween is a holiday for disguises, and highly addictive and even deadly drugs such as Fentanyl are being disguised to look like innocent candy, appealing to the younger ages.
The public is being warned that Fentanyl, a highly addictive drug which can cause overdoses in minute amounts, is being disguised as colorful candies and even placed into fake packages looking nearly identical to Nerds, Skittles, Sweet Tarts and even rainbow candies, law enforcement pointed out.
“There are several different ways that, not only we have seen, but other agencies around us, have shared,” stressed Winston County Sheriff’s Investigator Jacob Eward.
Fentanyl starts off in powder form but can be compressed into pills or other shapes. “There was one that looked just like Nerds candy,” Eward said. “The packages have Nerds candy, but once you got into it, you can tell it looked a little bit different.
“The texture was different, and, once they figured it out, they sent it off and it came back as pure Fentanyl.”
These colorful pills have an M inside a box on one side of the pill, with the opposite side of the pill having a 30 above a line.
“They have used a fake pill press to press the Fentanyl to make it look like this,” Eward pointed out.
“If you are a kid and you get a thing of candy, and you see all of these different colors, you are not going to think anything of it,” Eward stated. “You are just going to dump a bunch in your hand and pop them into your mouth.”
All it takes is .01 micrograms of Fentanyl to kill an adult, much less a child, law enforcement are warning.
“The biggest thing to pay attention to for parents and kids during Halloween is the packaging,” Eward warned. “It may look like it’s Nerds, or whatever, but if you look real close at the packaging, you’ll notice the subtle differences.”
These differences could be in the company name. If the company name on the package of Nerds, for example, is not Nestle, but another name, there is reason for concern, law enforcement stated.
Eward assured that local retail stores are not carrying these fake candies because they use licensed vendors.
These Fentanyl pills disguised as candy are a common method used by distributors/traffickers or users, in order to disguise the real product from law enforcement, authorities said.
The average person should look for such things as if the bags have been resealed. “That is what they did with the Skittles bags,” said Eward, “They opened them, put the pills inside of them, reheated them then resealed the bags.”
In bigger cities, traffickers pass off what appears to be a “new candy” to unsuspecting users, which turns out to be Fentanyl, Eward pointed out.
“Parents need to be very vigilant to the packaging of candy,” he stressed.
Fentanyl over the past two years has become the popular, cheap drug among users in Winston County, according to Eward.
“Imagine Morphine on steroids,” Eward explained.
Fentanyl is actually a synthetic opioid that is being described as 50 times stronger than Heroin and 100 times stronger than Morphine, according to the Center for Disease Control.
“It’s very potent for heavy narcotics users,” Eward said. Fentanyl, which is a potent and very deadly drug on its own, is also mixed with other harmful drugs such as heroin or even methamphetamine.
“If you are not a heavy drug user, it takes .01 micrograms to overdose. That can kill you,” Eward emphasized. “If you overdose, and don’t receive immediate medical attention, you can die.”
Not only is the pill form of Fentanyl popular, but the powder form is being injected into the veins, according to law enforcement.
“We have a serious problem with Fentanyl in Winston County,” Eward stated. The drug, he added, has yet to replace meth but is not far behind.
Fentanyl has been around for years, being developed for pain management treatment for cancer patients by applying a patch to the skin, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Because of its powerful opioid properties, Fentanyl is also diverted for abuse and is often applied to heroin to increase potency, the DEA stated.
“Many users believe that they are purchasing heroin and actually don’t know they are purchasing Fentanyl--which often results in overdose deaths,” the DEA report indicated.
Clandestinely-produced Festally is primarily manufactured in Mexico, but has found a strong market in the United States, law enforcement indicated.
The drug has since taken a life of its own, having become a popular recreational drug, which is not only highly addictive but can cause respiratory distress and death when taken in high doses or when combined with other substances, such alcohol or other illicit drugs, according to the DEA.
Fentanyl produces such effects as relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, urinary retention, pupil constriction and respirator depression, according to the DEA.
“Locally, we’re seeing a lot of overdoses on Festally from either, A, they didn’t know it was in (other drugs), or B, they are first timers or they are not heavy narcotic users and they’re trying it, and it is just too much for them,” Eward continued.
The largest amount of Fentanyl so far confiscated by the Winston County Sheriff’s Office is around four grams, according to Eward.
“It’s a drug that has made its way into Winston County, and it’s here to stay, until we can figure out where it’s coming from, or work with different agencies to stop the flow coming in,” Eward added.
When on the scene with Fentanyl, law enforcement are having to use extra precautions, such as specialty gloves that must be worn in handling the drug.
Fentanyl can be absorbed into the skin or can be inhaled by accident, according to law enforcement.
Double Springs Police Chief Kim Miller stated one of his officers became sick at a scene when coming into contact with a controlled substance, and had to be transported to the hospital.
“He just picked the bag up and immediately got sick,” Chief Miller said. “All of these drugs, if you make contact with them, you don’t know what they are laced with or what’s in there with them.
“It’s all a danger,” Miller added.
Trick or treat safety tips
Eward noted that children should go to trunk or treat or church sponsored events to receive candy, but do not go trick or treating at the homes of people they do not know.
If children or young people do receive a suspicious candy, they should not discard it, but call their local law enforcement agency and turn it over to them, Eward further stressed.
People should be very cautious and inspect what they receive, Eward stated.
Young people should never accept candy that is not wrapped, according to law enforcement.
“The parents just need to be really cautious,” Chief Miller added. “The parents are the ones who are going to have to really supervise it and make sure what their kids are getting.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.