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Easy to see, hard to spot: Parents learn to pick up on teen drug use

South Boston News
Audience members try to figure out where the drugs may be hidden. / November 11, 2019
Hidden in Plain Sight, a program offered Wednesday at Halifax County High School, aims to do exactly what the name says — help parents and adults spot drug use among teens by picking up tell-tale clues lying in plain sight.

The presentation, by members of the Culpeper Police Department, was sponsored by the Southside Wellness Coalition, a partnership of substance abuse counseling groups, law enforcement agencies, health providers, educators and others in Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties.

All students are going to “experiment with drugs and alcohol,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg as he welcomed guests to the program.

Culpeper police officers set up the auditorium stage to resemble a typical teenager’s bedroom, then provided an interactive walk-through of the exhibit. Members of the audience tried to identify items that might conceal drugs. Some items appeared normal, but they were actually modified to conceal drugs and drug paraphernalia.

For example, a Jif Peanut Butter jar — heavy from what might seem to be creamy peanut butter — had been lined to conceal drugs. A computer mouse could be disassembled and used to grind marijuana. A Sharpie pen, while functional, could be opened from the bottom to conceal pills. Clothing such as tee shirts and hats can contain well-hidden secret compartments.

The program does not encourage parents to tear a kid’s bedroom apart. “It’s designed to keep an eye out for things you see every day, that you don’t know that you’re looking at,” said Culpeper officer Michael Grant. “Hence, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight.’”

All of the items identified in the program can be purchased online and in stores, which makes it difficult to tell apart the sinister from the completely innocent. The Culpeper officers noted one common outlet for problem containers and drug paraphernalia: Spencer Gifts, a popular vendor for young drug users.

Rather than attempting to shut down all the influences that affect teen behavior, Grant told parents, teachers, and civic leaders to pay attention to pop culture. Listen to the music that your children listen to, and research the song lyrics to learn the lingo that can signal drug use among youths. Grant encouraged purchasing a copy of High Times magazine to learn slang terms for marijuana, such as purple cush and lemon haze.

Youths are less at risk of drug and alcohol abuse when parents communicate their expectations. The parent-teen relationship should be about “communication, not confrontation,” added officer Ashley Banks.

Volunteers and staff with several local and regional agencies set up tables in the high school lobby to share information and brochures. Among them were Safe Harbor Recovery Center (located in Portsmouth), NewVision (an organization that aims to break the cycle of addiction), the South Boston Police Department, Southside Community Services Board and Southside Wellness Coalition.

Kenan Tyner-Smith, prevention coordinator for the Southside Community Services Board, scheduled the presentation in South Boston and a second one in South Hill. Smith is in charge of prevention programs that are related to tobacco retailer education, suicide prevention and substance misuse among young people and adults.

Smith is also the fiscal agent for the Southside Wellness Coalition which has over 45 current members in Mecklenburg, Brunswick and Halifax counties. These volunteers discuss ways to create safer, more secure and healthier communities by addressing substance misuse, suicide prevention and providing the community with educational opportunities.

The Coalition meets once a month, typically on the third Thursday of the month at the administration office of the Southside Community Service Board in Clarksville. “We are actively recruiting new members,” said Smith. For more information contact Kenan Tyner-Smith at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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