Life imitates art when youths 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, Mich.
“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.”
The "Stay Out of My Room!" exhibit was put on in connection with a gang seminar organized by Maine Township Trustee Laura Morask. Both events were held Wednesday at the same time, to give the audience information on both drugs and gangs.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and police chiefs from Niles, Park Ridge, the Cook County Sheriff's Department, Chicago and elsewhere explained what they're doing to fight gangs in Maine Township, which includes Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Niles, Morton Grove, Glenview and an unincorporated area.