Police Catch Flack For Warning Against Fentanyl Lollipop-Seeking Car Thieves

By Victoria Kim 01/16/18

A police department in Kansas is getting pushback for a stigmatizing drug-related tweet.

car thief looking through driver's side window of car.

Not everyone was amused by a “warning” posted on Twitter by police in Lawrence, Kansas, which was intended to encourage drivers to curb winter “car warming”—but rubbed others the wrong way with its stigmatizing language about people who misuse opioids.

The original tweet, posted on Dec. 4 by the Lawrence Police Department, read: “Please see the attached pledge form before winter arrives later this week. Otherwise you’ll probably get your car stolen.” 

The attachment read:

“I pledge to not leave my car running with the keys in the ignition just because I’m afraid of being a little cold for the first 3 minutes of my drive to work/school, or because I am too lazy to scrape the windows. I realize that breaking this pledge will undoubtedly result in my car being stolen by some jackwagon who will trade it for a fentanyl lollipop.”

Most people did not take offense to the tweet, but others weren't too fond of the stigmatizing language the police used. 

“Nice demonization of opioid addicts,” one Twitter user replied to the LPD’s post.

Another wrote, “I get that you all are just trying to get a point across in a humorous way. While I agree that ppl need to stop being stupid and not leave a car running unattended, as someone who lives with chronic pain every day the jab about the fentanyl is below the belt.” 

In some U.S. cities, including Lawrence, car warming—or letting your car idle for five to ten minutes to warm it up before driving—is a citable offense, unless it is done with a remote starter. 

The LPD’s message, however, was clouded by its warning about car-stealing fentanyl lollipop fiends. A “jackwagon” by definition is an insult you’d hurl at someone you think is a loser. Hence, according to the LPD, the fentanyl fiend is a thief and a loser.

The police clarified its statement in a second tweet, “It’s about people who thieve to sustain a drug habit, not people with legitimate medical needs. Sorry for not being clearer and for unintentionally offending.”

According to High Times, fentanyl lollipops have “reportedly been a hot target in pharmacy robberies.” 

The lollipop containing the opioid pain medication, which is said to be 100 times stronger than morphine and oxycodone, was created by anesthesiologist and medical entrepreneur Ted Stanley. This candy version of the drug was intended to offer a more palatable alternative to pills or injections, mainly for cancer patients.

The lollipop was approved in 1998 to treat cancer pain under the name Actiq, though as the New York Times notes, it is also prescribed for off-label uses like migraine and headache relief, severe pain, arthritis, and more.

The fentanyl lollipop works by being absorbed through the veins in a person’s mouth, throat, and esophagus. According to the Times, the fentanyl is absorbed in the bloodstream within 20 minutes—the same time it would take for the drug to absorb through injection.

Stanley and his colleague Brian I. Hague came upon the discovery while exploring the idea of injecting carfentanil, an even more potent opioid that is used to tranquilize large animals, into sugar cubes to sedate monkeys.

They simply applied this idea to humans, and the fentanyl lollipop was born.

Unfortunately, the confectionary painkiller has not been exempt from the rising misuse of fentanyl and carfentanil, which have been attributed to rising opioid overdose deaths across the U.S. These too are being diverted to the black market via theft, forged prescriptions, corrupt doctors, and patients who share or sell their own lollipops.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr