Drugs In Halloween Candy: Why The Age-Old Scare Story May Finally Be Failing

Stories of drugs in Halloween candy seem to have been around for as long as we can remember, but actual cases of Halloween poisoning are much fewer and farther between than the stories would suggest. The fear-promoting tales, though, may at last be wearing thin, and there are a few factors that may be helping.

How long have these tales been around? Many who recall their trick-or-treat days in the 80s or even 70s can remember having apples taken away by parents who feared hidden razor blades, and candy inspected for hidden needles and other horrors. Snopes reports that advice columns in the mid-nineties included warnings about tainted treats. A Jack Chick tract from 1986 also capitalized on this fear, hinting that Satanic forces use drugs in Halloween candy to kill innocent children.

Have there ever been any genuine cases of drugs or other deadly items in Halloween candy?

Snopes has addressed this as well, explaining that almost every case discovered over the years has been exaggerated, misrepresented, or altogether made-up. (There are a few cases of deliberate poisoning of a specific individual, generally by a family member. Other cases are pranks, attention-seeking, or something other than an individual mass-attacking a neighborhood full of children.)

Still, the fear lives on, and people continue to share stories and warnings, asking parents to be wary of Halloween candy. Police departments and news outlets are even sharing the story. For instance, Fox 8 reported that Jackson, MS, police had shared a warning this month, declaring that ecstasy tablets might be dropped in Halloween bags, showing an image of some of the drugs and warning parents to look out for them.

However, the news source also mentioned that a number of comments on the department’s Facebook post were calling the matter a hoax and not a real fear. After the fuss, the Jackson, MS police department appears to have removed the original post.

The comments about the Jackson drug fears don’t seem to be more skeptical than those found in other locales, or across news stories, police department pages, and various other examples of the Halloween drug scare. The story has been shared numerous times, as have many others like it. Most examples are quite similar, and they contain an image of the candy in question, plus a warning that it isn’t what it appears.

Facebook share of drugs in Halloween candy story.

If there are so many shares of these horror stories, you may wonder, what indication is there that the long-lived hoax and fear-mongering tale is at last dying out?

The comments on story after story mirror what Fox 40 reported about the previously mentioned police warning.

For instance, here are a few comments from a similar story from St Louis news outlet, KMOV.

Drugs in Halloween candy? Not likely

These are just a few of the top comments, but there are many more, and comments on other shares of this and similar stories all look much the same, making it clear that when it comes to drugs in Halloween candy, the skeptics are now speaking out more loudly than the believers.

So, what’s changing? Why is the ages-old tale of deadly Halloween candy getting more laughs and fewer shudders these days?

Part may be attributable to sites and stories like the Snopes article cited above. That one alone has tens of thousands of shares and has been cited by other outlets. Other news and blog sites have also produced stories assuring consumers that the fear of drugs in candy is overblown. The Inquisitr, in fact, recently assured readers that, while not impossible, the likelihood of drugs in Halloween bags is extremely low.

Another change, though, that may be increasing the number of skeptics is simply the increasingly casual attitude toward illegal drugs. People are speaking out against the “war on drugs,” and more people than ever have tried some illegal substance. In fact, the U.S government’s statistics on drug abuse estimate that in 2013, nearly 10 percent of the population had used illegal drugs in the month before the survey was done.

Add to that the increased legalization of marijuana, and the news surrounding it, and the result is a populace that is more aware of certain details about mind-altering substances, including cost.

A glance at the circulating image above, without any context for price or strength, lends credence to the idea that a child could easily gulp down the whole pile of pills too quickly to know what he was doing. However, looking at the same pile with an awareness that a single dose of an illegal drug may constitute a single pill or candy and may cost $20, makes one quickly aware that the notion of anyone handing out such a pile for free isn’t likely.

With more people aware that handing out even a single drug-laced candy to each trick-or-treater would bring Halloween costs into hundreds or thousands of dollars, a larger percent of the public seems to be realizing what a ridiculous notion that would be.

Response memes are even trending.

Drugs in Halloween candy? People aren't buying it.

Can it happen?

Of course, it can occur on rare occasions. People have spent money to harm other people before, and no one is saying that this kind of mass assault is impossible. However, the statistics confirm that finding drugs in Halloween candy is highly unlikely, and the rare cases are not mass poisonings but directed ones.

Should you be careful and check kids’ candy?

When it comes to children’s safety, a measure of care is always called for, and it will be up to each parent to determine what those measures should be. If parents feel the need to check Halloween candy before letting a child dig in, there’s no reason not to, but if your kid has already been eating the treats, there’s also no real need to worry that he’s likely to have consumed drugs, glass, or needles.

In short, you can probably let your kids enjoy their holiday with little or no fear of drugs in Halloween candy and take pleasure in the knowledge that you are far from the only parent rolling their eyes and dismissing this particular urban legend.

[Image via Facebook]