ATTLEBORO — Placed on the table of a teen bedroom display sits a can of Arizona Iced Tea. Except, it’s not actually filled with tea. Though it may look like, and feel as heavy as the real product, it is actually a fake version that can be used by teens to hide substances from their parents.
And it’s not just iced tea containers.
On Wednesday night, the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office presented an exhibit titled “Hidden in Plain Sight” at the Attleboro YMCA’s downtown branch.
The exhibit was meant to educate parents and other adults about where their teens may be hiding drug and drug-related paraphernalia in their home.
“It’s really just about exposing parents to what their children might be doing,” said April Cabrera, the project manager for the District Attorney’s Office. “We want to empower parents to to connect with their children.”
Throughout the mock teen bedroom display, everything from powders to pills were hidden in ways that made parents gasp.
“Who thinks of these things?” one visitor exclaimed as Cabrera held up a seemingly harmless Tootsie Roll.
Cabrera explained that the candy can be microwaved for a few seconds to make it softer before pills are then folded into the dough. The candy hardens, and it looks like nothing is amiss.
The presentation, which is restricted to those 21 or older, lasted about 20 minutes. By the time the spiel was over, parents stood dumbfounded.
“It was eye-opening,” said Lillian Tetreault, a 71-year-old nurse from Taunton. “Parents have to understand that this is a possibility. Teens are under a lot of pressure these days.”
According to Tetreault, this exhibit should be shown everywhere.
“It’s really just about education,” she said, “Addiction is a disease, and we need to be educated on how to stop it.”
While some took a more compassionate and understanding approach, others were more harsh. “If you’re living under my roof,” one woman from Attleboro said, “then you have no privacy. You have to earn that.”
She went on to describe run-ins she had with her own children.
“If I suspect something, you’re room is going to look like a tornado by the time I’m done with it,” she added. “I’ve taken a pair of scissors to a mattress before and tore the whole thing apart.”
Cil and Lance Jusczyk dropped by the exhibit after finishing a class at the Y, and said that they were amazed at how the technology has changed since they were raising kids.
“When our kids were this age,” Cil, 68, said, “this just wasn’t as big of an issue.”
“We have grandkids that are approaching this age,” Lance, 69, added, “so this is just incredible to see.”
In addition to the Arizona iced tea, Cabrera showed the group a fake Coca-Cola bottle and Pringles container. All of which, she said, can be purchased online or at stores like Spencers.
Spencers, a popular mall retailer known for selling outlandish clothing and accessories, makes it easy for kids to get their hands on these items, Cabrera said.
Cabrera also noted it was important to notice pins or stickers with drug-related messages. A sticker on the side of a night stand that reads, ‘show me to your dealer,’ according to Cabrera, could be a problem.
After concluding the presentation, Cabrera directed baffled parents to a resource area where they could pick up handouts listing possible questions they could pose to a child they suspect might be experimenting with drugs.
“It’s about starting a conversation,” Cabrera said. “We don’t want parents to be intimidated by things like this. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation.”
“Remember parents,” she added. “you’re kids still listen to you.They may roll their eyes but deep down they’re always listening.”