Educational trailer teaches signs of drug abuse

FAIRFIELD — Community members got the chance to see what an opioid-using teenager’s bedroom looks like.

The town’s Department of Health hosted an educational trailer, designed to teach families about possible warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers, Thursday, Aug. 22 on Sherman Town Green.

Visitors walked through a mock teenage bedroom and learned how to recognize evidence of opioid use hidden in plain sight.

The trailer, developed by the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative Community Awareness Readiness Engagement Service (RALI CARES) in partnership with Code 3 Association, travels to communities around the country to teach families about the signs of drug use.

RALI is an organization that supports community programs and solutions to combat the ongoing opioid epidemic, and Code 3 is a non-profit that works to build relationships between police officers and citizens.

The organizations developed the trailer with input from parents of opioid users in an effort to focus attention on young drug users, who are at high risk of addiction. Statistics from the state’s Department of Health show that 11 percent of high school students have taken opioids without a prescription.

Many young users will start with prescription opioids, and eventually graduate to stronger drugs such as heroin or fentanyl when their addiction leads them to crave a more intense high.

During Thursday’s event, experts led visitors through the mock bedroom and pointed out each telltale piece of evidence. In the closet, for example, guides pointed out shoes missing laces, which are often used to tie off the arm in a tourniquet while injecting drugs.

Guides also showed visitors how to evaluate discarded materials in the trash or floor as possible pieces of evidence, such as burnt tin foil used for heating substances and small plastic bags that drugs are often sold in.

They also explained that many opioid abusers will experience stomach issues as a side effect of use. A teen’s use of laxatives or stomach controlling medications, such as Imodium, can be important warning signs.

Guides also illuminated common hiding places for drugs, such as battery compartments, empty packaging boxes or shoes.

Gerald G. Neill Jr., a retired police office that works with Code 3, explained that parents have similar responsibilities to cops when it comes to keeping an eye on their children.

“Good cops have to be nosy, and good parents have to be nosy,” Neill said. “Believe your child, but verify.”

Health Department Director Sands Cleary and First Selectman Mike Tetreau toured the trailer Thursday morning. Both emphasized how important it is for families to learn to recognize the warning signs of drug abuse.

“We know in Fairfield that we have opioid abusers here,” Tetreau said. “You have to be able to see what is taking place right under your nose. This is all about education and prevention.”