T.I.P.S. program arms parents with information about drug use

T.I.P.S. program arms parents with information about drug use
A mock teenagers room set up at Century High School shows several ways drugs can be hidden November 21, 2017. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

If your child was using drugs right under your nose would you be able to tell? Most parents would like to think so, but according to the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, many parents may have a difficult time spotting some of the more insidious signs that their child is using drugs.

On Tuesday evening, the office hosted a program called Threats in Plain Sight, or TIPS, that aimed to arm parents with information about signs of drug use. The office created the program in response to questions from parents.


A sectioned off portion of the Century High School cafeteria was transformed into a mock teenager’s bedroom, complete with decorative posters and a video game system. But hidden throughout were fake drug and drug paraphernalia from a keychain flashlight that unscrewed into a pipe to a hollow energy drink can that was weighted to feel real while it acted as a stash.

Other signs of drug use can be bent or burnt kitchen spoons, ripped cotton ear buds and food containers or water bottles that a parent did not purchase that seem to stick around the teenager’s room.

Tim Weber, drug education and treatment liaison for the State’s Attorney’s Office, said the room included paraphernalia related to several different substances, including marijuana, crack and heroin. The information about how drugs are stashed is gathered from treatment agencies and his office’s own work with addicts.

Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said every item found in the room used to conceal paraphernalia could be obtained in Carroll County. Though this mock room was fairly clean, he said spotting the signs of drug use in a messy bedroom can be even harder.

After parents had a chance to walk through the room, they viewed a short video, produced by the Community Media Center that revealed all of the hidden stash points and signs of drug use throughout the room.

Weber said, he thought parents would be very surprised after viewing the video.

The parents then heard from a panel of county figures including Keith Mills of WBAL TV and 98 Rock, Carroll County mother Beth Schmidt who lost her son to a drug overdose, Amy Laugelli from the Carroll County Health Department, and State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo.

Mills shared his personal story, which included addiction to narcotic painkillers and the significant rehabilitation that helped him get clean.

He said that perceptions of narcotics abuse can be outdated when parents believe it only happens in big cities to certain demographics.

“I abused medication, but I was going to work every day. ... I was filling out fake prescriptions, but I was going to church on Sundays,” he said

Mills said that hoped that the night’s program would help parents find resources to get their child help if it was ever needed.

Schmidt spoke to the gathered group about her own experience with a child who was trying to conceal his addiction.

“Everything that happened with my son can be explained away with teenage behavior … until you start adding them all up together.”

The point of the program, she said, was not to send parents home scared so they “go ripping through all the PlayStation games looking for drugs.” Instead, she said that parents should stay vigilant and look for multiple signs that might point to a larger pattern. Another piece of advice she gave was not to come at a child with a head-on attack because that might turn them off to coming forward later when they need help.


If a person is dealing with an addition, “they don’t need you to remind them how disappointed they are,” she said. “They’re already disappointed in themselves.”

Around-the-clock help is available by calling 443-547-5166.