She says drug dealers are using candy-coding methods like adding flavors or presenting drugs in candy-like packages to trick children into taking drugs and consequently, becoming addicted.
"The flavored cocaine and meth have strawberry, chocolate, root beer and Coca-Cola [flavors added]," Parkinson explains. "It comes in these cute little baggies with smiley faces or snow cones or ice cream cones. Look at Ecstasy, it looks like a Smartie — it looks like cute little candy. The kids think, wow, I can take that. They are appealing to the kids: they're going after them."
Flavoring drugs not only masks bitter tastes that may discourage children from taking some drugs, but it also presents the drug in a form that is more recognizable and desirable to children, which could add to a child's willingness to ingest harmful substances, which are also highly addictive. The National Survey on Drug use and Health found that as of 2006, the median age that a person first used cocaine and Ecstasy was approximately 20. This alleged attempt by dealers to get kids hands into the "candy" jar earlier than statistics reflect as the initiation age suggests that drug traders recognize that fact, and are making efforts to draw in a younger crowd with the sweetened substances.
Counselors and enforcement officers believe that the trend is unsettling because it appeals to kids.
"That tactic will work," Parkinson says. "And the kids, in their mind, will accept it easier. In their mind they think, 'Wow, that just looks like a Smarties' or, 'That just looks like candy to me.' And the drug dealer is going to appear to the whole group. They know they can sell it, they know there's a whole market out there for them."
Kevin Quinn, a school resource officer in Chandler, Arizona, has heard about the treat trend through the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) and says though he hopes the fad is never proven, the marketing ploy is unscrupulous.
"I really hope that marketing to kids [is not effective]," Quinn says. "Obviously dealers are doing it for a reason, but that's just a scary thought to think … that drug dealers are targeting kids to kind of get the drugs out there. That's just a scary thought."