Are Your Kids Using Drugs Or Alcohol? Here's How To Tell

The 'Stay Out of My Room!' exhibit, a walk-in display of a teen's bedroom with all its drug hiding places, provided tips for parents who want to make sure their kids aren't doing drugs.

Life imitates art when teens want to conceal use of drugs or alcohol.

The ways and means that the kids handle their stash seems right out of TV and the movies, as shown in an exhibit put on display Wednesday at the Maine Township Hall, 1700 Ballard Road in Park Ridge.

“Stay Out of My Room!” set up a mock teen-age bedroom in the township hall’s basement, displaying how substance users might hide drugs or alcohol, or give clues to their use in plain sight. Many methods appear to be right out of a scriptwriters’ imagination in how substances, or weapons, are concealed.

Featured were a bed, a night stand, T-shirts, a wall poster and accessories normally used by youths. Tricia Williams, a prevention specialist with the Maine Community Youth Assistance Foundation, was the guide for curious visitors examining the layout for clues of drug or alcohol use.

“This is an opportunity to educate parents and inform them of things they can look for in their child’s  room that might be indicative of drug or alcohol use,” Williams said. “They’re probably not going to find these things, because most kids don’t use alcohol or drugs.”

The youth assistance foundation got the “Stay Out of My Room” idea from another anti-substance abuse organization in Troy, MI.

“It was a great idea and we thought our community would benefit from being aware of these things,” Williams said. “We are a coalition, so we have a lot of partners. We worked with the local police and local treatment providers, and they work with kids who are in treatment all the time. They get all the info from the kids.”

Hints are in plain sight

Williams pointed out the hints in plain sight in the display, such as a T-shirt with a marijuana leaf portrayed and posters with a pro-drugs message.

“Some parents might not even know that’s a marijuana leaf,” Williams said. Imprinted poster “codes” for drug use, such as mushrooms and the number “420” for a day (April 20) marijuana would be smoked, also could be missed by parents, she added.

A beer sign adorned a wall. Bottlecaps  were stacked  the night-stand’s lower shelf. Williams pulled out a small bag of pills from inside a baseball cap’s bill and a CD sleeve.

A stuffed monkey with a pacifier around its neck put on the model bed’s pillow signified the use of the drug ecstasy.

“People who use ecstasy tend to clench their jaw a lot, their muscles get tense,” Williams said. “So they suck on pacifiers so they’re not grinding their teeth.”

Variety of items, hiding places

The list of items that could be associated with drug and alcohol use in a youth’s environment includes visine, cough syrup, a paper towel roll or plastic bottle with a dryer sheet, roach clip, incense/air fresheners, rolling papers, a pen without ink inside, mints/gum/mouthwash, blunt cutters, very small plastic bagginess, spray paint/dust-off/Sharpies, lighters, aluminum scraps and an apple with the core removed.

Also: Empty blister packs, doodles with drug references, water bottles, one-hitters/pipes/ liquor bottles, straws that are cut short,  and posters/wall hangings and clothes with alcohol or drug references/advertising.

The stash itself could be found in audio speakers, a dresser or desk drawer, a night stand, waste basket, a backpack,  the back of the closet, a guitar case, a desk, jean pockets, socks, boots/shoes/sneakers, a boom box’s battery compartment, a computer CD drive, and holes cut inside a book or lining of a jacket. The traditional hiding places of under the bed or mattress also are popular.

Among the interested observers of the model bedroom was Janis Swanson of Schaumburg. Swanson represented the Kenneth Young Center, a service agency for youths in Elk Grove Village.

“I think this is really helpful for parents to see how creative these kids can be,” Swanson said. “They did a great job (assembling the exhibit).  It will bring up a lot of interest from parents and follow-through to make sure they talk to their kids. I would certainly bring it to the attention of my superiors.”

victoria smith October 20, 2012 at 01:42 PM
A good article for parents that are totally in the dark about what their teenager might be up to. I would also just like to say, advertisers are very creative in their art when it comes to promoting thier products. Just because a kid has a T shirt or a poster does not always mean that they are actually partaking. In these times, the main concern should be communication. Try not to be judgemental or over the top, but to have normal conversations about how you feel about drugs and alcohol. You know that most kids are going to try one or the other, especially if they are college bound. We as parents also should let our kids know, that we were not not perfect. It is not always safe to say that just because your kid is a straight A student and involved in other activities at school like band, theater, sports teams that they are not at risk . We all could go on and on about this subject, but as I said before...communication is the key here and your attitude. You want to have a good realtionship with your kids so they do feel comfortable talking to you. For those parents that say, "my kid would never do that" is in denial. We love them unconditonally and want them to make the right choices, but they are only human and they will make bad decisions, just be there if they need you to be.
annie October 21, 2012 at 05:42 AM
I have found that most parents, either "don't want to know", can't believe that their darling would try drugs, get hooked on drugs, etc. For the parents of kids just starting high school, you really do need to know what your kids are up to. Having a cell phone doesn't mean you have any idea what they are doing. Drugs/booze are so easy for them to get, you need to be on the watch for changes in your child's behavior, and searching their rooms (when they aren't home of course), is a requirement of being a parent. Usually they are pretty busy freshman year but by sophomore year, things can change. When kids get hooked on drugs/booze, their behavior changes. They are hanging out with a new crowd. They become defiant, spaced out, etc. Their grades drop fast. They want to sleep. They don't want to go to school. This is one of those things, where "if you have to ask", you know the answer. There are a lot of great programs around here, get a therapist & psychiatrist, for the kid and get them in rehab. It can work and it does require a lot of involvement on the parents part. Tears and and lots of yelling are part of this. Parents aren't their childrens friends. It takes time, maybe more than one hospital stay....and well worth it in the end. As parents, we want our kids go be good adults.
victoria smith October 21, 2012 at 01:56 PM
All very good points Annie, but I hope that you do not search their rooms when the situation of drugs/alcohol are not an issue. If you have a teenager, being defiant, sleeping longer and dropping grades is not always the case of kids being on drugs. It is being a teenager and a phase that allot of them go through.
annie October 23, 2012 at 12:51 AM
While I agree, dropping grades & being defiant can be just a part of the teen years, when a kid falls off a cliff, with their grades, won't go to school, is "exhausted" but can't sleep, and always up for a party, theres something wrong and something has changed. Parents know their kids better than anyone. I would never have searched my kids room if I didn't feel like there was a valid reason, and in my case, I have no regrets about taking that peek. So, stating that searching is a requirement of a parent, I meant that if you think your kid is abusing drugs/booze, searching should be done. It sure opened my eyes. My kid is clean and sober now and on a good path and out of the teenage years. (Thank God).
Freelancelot October 26, 2012 at 06:45 PM
This is a good way to educate parents on where kids stash their drugs. Here are 13 of the most common places: http://www.testcountry.com/infographics/where-kids-hide-drugs-infographics.html Hopefully mostly parents check out these things, rather than giving kids more ideas on where to hide their stash.
Ryan Miller November 08, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Yes this is a great article for parents to read. Most of the signs are in plain sight. I also think using Mobile spy monitoring software on their cell phones is a good way to stay informed with out the pressure for them to hide. I say use both, Talk to your kids and learn them with the aid of software like Phone sheriff or mobile spy will help parents stay ahead of the curve.


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