‘High Disguise’ of drugs in a teen’s room

Sue Cronin finds a highlighter used to conceal a pipe during the HFM Prevention Council’s exercise “High Disguise” Thursday night at Knox Junior High School in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The HFM Prevention Council gave participants of its “High Disguise” exercise Thursday night at Knox Junior High School four minutes to find drug or alcohol-related paraphernalia in a mock teenager’s bedroom.

But in reality, parents have a lifetime to be concerned over their children’s welfare related to drugs.

The exercise — set up in Knox’s small cafeteria — was open to the public in groups of up to four people. Parents or concerned citizens had four minutes to find as much concealed fake drugs and related paraphernalia in a mock teenage bedroom.

HFM Prevention Council prevention educators Paul Meher and Alicia King gave a presentation on the program afterwards in Knox’s large cafeteria. They recently gave the same presentation to the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education.

The event was geared towards adolescents, parents and caring adults in the community. It gave participants the opportunity to search out hidden drugs and paraphernalia, while learning about concealment methods and drug culture references.

“This is about the parents and educating them,” said Knox Principal Robert Kraemer. “It opened my eyes.”

Even though parents are gaining knowledge about what their kids may be hiding, he said that hopefully in most households in Johnstown it will “never get to this point.”

Several parents and grandparents showed up for the “High Disguise” program Thursday night. They eagerly took notes, going through the mock bedroom in a methodical manner.

“These kids know how to hide things,” said participant Rebecca Wager, smiling as she exited the room.

She said she found 15 items, but the council educators said there were actually 63 items hidden in the bedroom.

Among the items that parents found was a journal, in which the teenager made drug references.

“It will make all the parents more aware,” said another participant, Sue Cronin, who praised the exercise.

Meher said there are no actual drugs used in the “High Disguise” presentation. For example, oregano was used instead of marijuana, powdered sugar was used instead of cocaine, and candy replaced pills. But other items were the real thing, such as roach clips, vape products, pipes and flasks. Meher said the HFM Prevention Council purchased some of the items for the exercise, while other items were donated.

“We want parents to be aware of what’s out there,” Meher said.

If parents find scales in their child’s bedroom, he said “unfortunately” they may be dealing drugs.

He said parents should remember that they “absolutely” have a right in real life to check their children’s rooms for drugs, alcohol or related paraphernalia. He said that many times “kids learn from other kids” about the types of items used in the “High Disguise” exercise.

Most of the Johnstown parents found and recorded in the range of five to 15 items in the bedroom, with one parent finding 22. Meher and King stressed that they have been “adding items” and the mock bedroom with over 60 items doesn’t represent the typical teenager’s room.

But Meher said there certainly could be some in a typical teen’s room, such as “grinders” found in the bottom of a Pringle’s can, which are used to grind up cannabis leaves.

Among the items the educators pointed out were pipes found on the bottom of highlighters, vape pens sometimes used to smoke THC. A Juul charger was hidden in the computer and laptop.

Meher said kids are grinding pain pills using makeshift grinders and snorting the mixture.

King said a journal can sometimes hide references, such as websites like 420.com; and ripanddip.com.

Organic cigarettes were hidden in a hair brush, lipstick can be used as pipes, and the educators pointed to the numerous stores they visited.

Those stores included Zumiez at the Crossgates Mall in Albany, which Meher said clerks told him they had nothing drug-related. But the store had drug-referenced T-shirts, stickers, and other items.

Among the items that can be purchased are $15 pot depicted socks. It was noted that Country Farms on North Perry Street has pipes, bongs and scales. Young’s Variety Shop in Gloversville has a gas mask bong, scales and stash cans. Other stores mentioned in the presentation were Smoker’s Choice in Amsterdam; and Spencer’s in the mall, which has baked brownie mix, stickers and flasks.

Meher and King said they have taped powdered sugar to the back of a drawer, but “High Disguise” participants haven’t discovered it.

“We’re pretty sure no one has found it yet,” Meher said.

King said some of the items can be used in concert with each other. For example, teens take prescription cough medicine and mix it with Mountain Dew and finally, Jolly Ranchers to make it taste better.

The educators noted that some of the stores where youth buy items like bongs have many legitimate items. But he said some stores leave it up to the drug user to be “creative” in the way they get their own high or hide their stash.

“This was a learning experience for us too, going into all the stores,” King said.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Kerry Minor

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