Does your teen spend a lot of time with his graphing calculator? That could be a sign of a drug problem, according to the DEA.
On April 20, the Drug Enforcement Administration tweeted out a link with a simple imperative: Find out where kids hide drugs. The link takes you to a page entitled "Hiding Places" at getsmartaboutdrugs.gov, "a DEA resource for parents, educators and caregivers."
"If your young loved one is dealing with drug addiction, they often become secretive," the DEA warns, "and as parents you may find answers in their rooms or vehicles. For those facing this serious issue, here are a few common places your teen could be hiding drugs."
What follows is a laundry list, in convenient slideshow format, of where wily teens stash their drugs. The list includes:
- Alarm clocks: "Some of the digital clocks can be used to hide illicit drugs," the DEA warns, "specifically small baggies in the battery compartment alongside the batteries."
- Graphing calculators: "You usually wouldn't be suspicious of your teen keeping his or her graphing calculator close," the DEA explains. "But if you suspect them of drug addiction you may have to be." As with alarm clocks, drugs can evidently be stashed in calculator battery compartments.
- Highlighters: Drugs stashed in the caps, obviously.
- Shoes: Yes, every teen wears shoes. But did you know some teens hide drugs in them?
- Candy wrappers: The DEA warns that many drugs look like candy, so of course a drug-addled teen is going to mix some ecstasy tabs in with his Smarties.
- Posters: If Andy Dufresne can hide an escape tunnel behind Raquel Welch in "The Shawshank Redemption," simple logic dictates that your kid can hide meth behind Pink Floyd.
- Heating vents: If we learned anything from "Breaking Bad," it's that wall vents can be used to store all sorts of contraband, including "drug-filled baggies."
- Teddy bears: "If your teen is still holding on to his or her adored childhood teddy bear, you may want to consider this," the DEA warns. "The inside seams of the stuffed animal can be used to hide small amounts of drugs."
- Car interiors: This one has some basis in fact: A recent Marist survey found a whopping 3 percent of marijuana users hide their stash in their car. For particularly devious teens, the nice thing about cars is they offer "a plethora of places they can hide drugs," per the DEA.
- Game consoles: If a kid can hide heroin in a graphing calculator, who knows what depths of depravity he may be able to conceal in a Wii U?
The general take-home message of the page - and of the "getsmartaboutdrugs" website in general - is that seemingly innocuous objects and behaviors can be signs of a life-ruining drug habit. Candy wrappers, belt buckles, ski caps, glow sticks and pacifiers are all potential pieces of drug paraphernalia, according to the site.
Warning signs of teen drug use include "disinterest in school," "lack of interest in clothing," new friends, and "excessive attempts to be alone."
The categories are so broad as to be practically meaningless, a reflection, in part, of the DEA's worldview that drugs are everywhere and everyone is a potential criminal.
The reality, of course, is considerably more mundane. Among teens, use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is near historic lows and marijuana use is flat or falling. There are a number of possible explanations for what's behind this - more entertainment options and a stunning drop in cigarette use chief among them - but one thing experts generally do agree on is that heavy-handed enforcement and scare campaigns a la the 1980s aren't one of them.
So parents, take heart: If your kid seems really into her graphing calculator, all it really means is that she's well on her way to a career as a successful engineer.