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How a Teen’s Bedroom Can Reveal Drug and Alcohol Abuse

How a Teen’s Bedroom Can Reveal Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Esther Crain


Yahoo Parenting

September 3, 2015

This adolescent bedroom is on display in a suburban Boston mall, and it just might help fight drug abuse. (Photo: Carl Stevens/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

It looks like a typical teenage bedroom: Under team flags and beside a twin bed, computer gear takes up space on a desk and water bottles and a set of keys clutter a nightstand.

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Except no real-life teen lives here — and the computer mouse has a secret compartment for hiding pills, the water bottles are filled with alcohol, and the key ring can be transformed into a marijuana pipe.

This mockup of a teen’s bedroom is actually an innovative exhibit inside the Hanover Mall outside Boston, and the purpose is to tip off parents to signs that their teens may be secretly using drugs and alcohol.

“The goal is to make parents who might think they are savvy about drug and alcohol abuse more aware of how kids use drugs these days, and then to encourage them to talk to their children,” Barbara Green, PhD, medical director of Youth Health Connection, a department that focuses on improving children’s health at South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth, Mass., tells Yahoo Parenting.

To this end, the exhibit, titled Hidden in Plain Sight, consists of a real bed and furniture reminiscent of an actual adolescent bedroom. Yet out in the open are 60 items that look innocent but are often used as drug paraphernalia or for abusing alcohol.

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Ping-Pong balls for beer pong, a can opener for opening beer bottles, and a bent spoon for cooking opiates are a few examples meant to show parents just how easy it is for teens to mask substance abuse.

“We’re not trying to scare parents, but educate them and create dialogue,” Karin Farrell, secretary for Youth Health Connection, tells Yahoo Parenting.

The idea for Hidden in Plain Sight came a few years ago, when the Boston area saw a spike in teen drug and alcohol abuse, says Farrell. A program director at Youth Health Connection saw a similar exhibit in Ohio, got permission to borrow the concept, and then customized it as a display that could travel among area communities.

The faux bedroom will be on view at the Hanover Mall through September. “Shoppers can look it over, then sign up for guided tours we hold that explain what the items mean and how they are used,” says Green. The exhibit also offers information on how drug and alcohol affect teen brain development.

“We know that the earlier parents intervene when their kids start using alcohol and drugs, the more successful the outcome is,” says Green, who hopes the exhibit encourages parents to keep an eye out for signs and intervene early. “Our goal is to save a generation.”

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