A lipstick case that transforms into a smoking pipe was one of the items shared during the Hidden in Plain Sight program at the Putnam County Educational Service Center. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)
A lipstick case that transforms into a smoking pipe was one of the items shared during the Hidden in Plain Sight program at the Putnam County Educational Service Center. (Putnam Sentinel/Steven Coburn-Griffis)

OTTAWA — A lipstick case that transforms into a smoking pipe. A full bottle of root beer that, when pulled apart, serves as a hiding place. Alcoholic energy drinks that look uncomfortably similar to their soft drink cousins. Alcohol-infused whipped cream. These were just a few of the items discussed and on view at Hidden In Plain Sight, a program designed to promote awareness of drug abuse, particularly amongst teenagers.

While attendance at the April 9 presentation, held at the Putnam County Educational Service Center, was slight, the message was pointed.

“(Drug abuse) is going on all the time,’” said Amy Barrett, executive director of the coalition AWAKE, which sponsors HIPS. “It’s happening in cars, in backpacks, in duffel bags…everywhere.”

And, according to Barrett, not only all the time and everywhere, but across all economic stratas and throughout all social cliques, as well. Barrett and Brad Baker, school resource officer for the Anthony Wayne Public School District and an officer in the Whitehouse Police Department, emphasized that all children and young adults have the potential and the opportunity to abuse drugs.

“I think that’s the most common misconception,” Barrett said. “Everyone thinks it’s the ‘bad’ kids.”

As Baker ran through a list of the most commonly used drugs — alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and heroin topped the list — he also discussed who was most likely to abuse them. Athletes use painkillers. Academics use stimulants and drugs intended to combat ADHD. Junior high kids chug bottles of cough medicine and chew bubble packs of cold and allergy tabs. And marijuana is universal.

“With the hard push to get the word out about smoking, it’s become more socially acceptable to smoke marijuana than cigarettes,” he said.

So, how can parents minimize the potential for abuse? By eliminating opportunities. Both Barrett and Baker recommended maintaining an inventory of all prescription drugs. Further, if there are any leftovers from a script, dispose of them. A drug drop-off box in the lobby at the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the sheriff’s department regularly offers Drug Drop Off days, with the next taking place on April 26 in several Putnam County communities, details of which are available from local law enforcement.

Most importantly, though, Barrett and Baker emphasized vigilance and a skeptical nature.

“Never take anything for granted,” Baker said. “If your kids aren’t acting themselves, investigate.”