Lehigh Valley

Website keeps parents in the loop of drug use trends

Every 45 hours in Lehigh County, someone dies of a drug overdose.

The results of a state study show that Lehigh County students use drugs and alcohol in school at a higher rate than the state average.

The rising toll of the opioid and drug epidemic sparked action from the county's department of human services, more specifically, its drug and alcohol unit.

"This is such a challenging problem and why we try to go at it in so many different ways," said Tom Muller, Lehigh County Executive.

One new way is a county website aimed at keeping parents up to speed with drug use trends.

"If nothing else, be much more alert as to what is going on with their teen, because it is happening in every one of our neighborhoods out there," Muller said.

The website is a collection of resources, information, and tutorials.

One of the highlights is a virtual mock teenager bedroom where parents can "guess" potential hiding spots for drug paraphernalia, and items used in drug and alcohol consumption.

"We don't want parents to be paranoid, we want parents to be educated and aware," said Lisa Wolff, with the Center for Humanistic Change, an organization that helped develop the virtual room.

Items otherwise non-threatening may be cause for concern for parents.  On Wednesday, Wolff showed 69 News a grinder watch used to grind marijuana, a water bottle with a secret compartment to hide drugs or paraphernalia, and a computer mouse that also functions as a scale.

"You can order any of these things from Amazon," Wolff said.

"Now that we have this, there is going to become 2.0 and 3.0, where kids are going to get more creative in what they can do,"  said Layne Turner, Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Administrator. "This is always going to be an ongoing problem. This is more geared to start that conversation with parents."

The website also gives visuals for drug amounts. For example, one image in a clickable slideshow shows a packet of Sweet & Low with a caption that tells users 50 bags, or five bundles worth of heroin, could be fit inside.

It also points out household items and over the counter drugs that can be used to get high or drunk, like vanilla extract, keyboard spray, and cold medicine.

The tool also includes an interactive map that shows exactly where to find treatment centers and transportation to get there.

Turner said another key goal of the website is offering an easy way to navigate platform for parents and families to find help and support. 

"The myth is we can't get in, we can't get help, it's not available. The truth is it's available," Turner said.

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