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Could a “Bedroom Walk” Help You Spot Teen Drug Use?

Hollowed out book with drugs

Trust is a huge part of any parent-child relationship, and no well-meaning parent wants to abuse his or her child’s trust.

However, imagine you’re the parent of a teenager. One day, you start to notice some peculiarities — perhaps a mood change, an unexplained illness, or a change in interests. What you don’t see is clear evidence of drug or alcohol use.

So what should you do? Do you err on the side of privacy and trust, or do you take steps to determine what is happening with your teen? In most cases, the best course is to have an honest talk with your teen about your concerns.

What happens if that talk does not allay your worries or does not bring clarity to what is happening with your child? In such a case, you might want to complete a “bedroom walk” of your teen’s space.

What Is a Bedroom Walk?

This is simply an observational visit to your child’s room in which you scrutinize its contents with a detective’s eye. It may seem intrusive, but if you really want answers as to whether your teenager is drinking or doing drugs, a bedroom walk can offer you some much-needed clarity.

Here are some suggestions on what to examine:

Baggie of drugs being hidden in pants pocket.
  1. The air. Use your nose to check for unusual odors such as smoke, alcohol, or “masking” aromas such as air freshener, Lysol, cologne, perfume or body spray.
  2. Unhidden objects. Some teens try to hide their contraband “in plain sight” by creating small openings in throw pillows, tennis balls or stuffed animals and stashing it inside.
  3. Refreshments. That colorful candy or wrapped stick of gum might actually be a controlled substance. A craft soda bottle may actually contain an alcoholic beverage (which can only be identified in the fine print on the label).
  4. Secret storage items. There’s a whole industry centered around “diversion safes” or items with secret compartments which may look like beverage cans, toothpick holders, lamps or even power strips and electrical outlets.
  5. Clothing. Drugs might be concealed in tiny pockets on shirts or pants. Or they could be stowed in the bottom or insole of shoes — or even in belt buckles.
  6. School supplies. An old trick is hollowing out a portion of a book to hide drugs. Some teens will even store small amounts of drugs in the pen caps that are kept on highlighters.
  7. Furniture. Check underneath the bottom of dresser drawers, inside hollow bedframe components, or under (or even inside) a mattress.
  8. Walls and floors. Peek behind posters on walls. Inspect picture frames for gaps. Unscrew heating or air conditioning vents.
  9. Personal care items. Lipstick containers, mascara tubes, and even sanitary napkins are great hiding places for drugs. Also, watch out for fake shaving cream cans or deodorant products (see #4).
  10. Electronics. Many common electronics products have enough room in their battery compartments to conceal small amounts of drugs. Plus, video game consoles and controllers have spaces which may also be used for that purpose.
  11. Pipes or parts. What may look like random pieces of metal, plastic, or tubing could actually be components of a bong, hookah, or makeshift drug smoking pipe.
  12. Trash. Even discarded items in trash cans like chewing gum tinfoil or empty candy bags might be hiding drugs. And an empty soda can with a hole punched in the bottom (or even a used toilet paper roll) is often used to smoke marijuana or other drugs.
  13. Outside the room. There may be spots in your house that are rarely touched where drugs can be stowed, such as a spare room crawl space or a corner of the basement (or its ceiling tiles).
  14. Car. Every car, truck or SUV has numerous spots where drugs or drug paraphernalia can be hidden, so include your teen’s vehicle in your search.

After the Walk…The Talk

Once you have completed your walk, you should be ready to justify your actions to your teen. You’ll need to provide a substantial reason for violating your teen’s privacy or risk losing his or her trust for good. The simplest explanation is usually made up of the indicators as to why you thought your teen was drinking alcohol or using drugs.

If you do discover evidence of substance misuse, don’t accept the oft-used excuse of “holding it for a friend” or “I just did it once.” Instead, talk to your teen about the dangers of substance misuse and be sure to listen to his or her responses. This could help you figure out the catalyst for or reasoning behind why your child sought out alcohol or controlled substances in the first place.

Finally, if you think your adolescent is struggling with teen addiction, seek help immediately from a physician, nurse, or a drug treatment professional. Don’t assume that it’s just a juvenile phase that will pass; if your teenager went to the trouble of hiding his or her substances or drug use tools from you, then a serious problem may exist that should be addressed quickly.

If your teenager is hiding drugs or drug paraphernalia but refusing to acknowledge that he or she has a problem, contact Next Generation Village for advice on how to get the help that your teen needs.

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