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New tool helps parents spot signs of heroin use

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In a trailer outfitted as a teen's bedroom, there are common items where kids have been known to stash drugs. (WLS)

There is help for parents who may not know their kids are using heroin. There are ways to spot the problem, but adults have to be trained on what to look for.

From the outside, the "In Plain Sight" trailer in New Lenox, Ill. looks like any law enforcement vehicle - and inside, it looks like any teenager's bedroom. But in this room, there are warning signs and clues that aim to open parents' eyes.

It looks like a school textbook, but what's sitting on your child's desk may be hiding an addiction.

"So many times parents will come in the trailer, and they say, 'Oh, well, I've seen this before in my kid's room. I didn't know that,'" said Paula Goodwin, Grundy County No Tolerance Task Force.

In this Grundy County sheriff's department trailer outfitted as a teen's bedroom, Goodwin showed common items where kids have been known to stash drugs, including cut-open tennis balls, cases for eyeglasses, and stuffed animals.

"It's a perfect hiding place because then it's got Velcro that would close shut," Goodwin said.

This new tool comes as heroin tightens its grip on the Chicago area. Will County this year is on pace for a record number of overdose deaths. The drug is no longer just injected, but also inhaled and snorted.

Read more: I-Team travels to front line of heroin epidemic

Goodwin says to beware if spoons in the house go missing and turn up bent in your child's room.

"They would put the heroin in here, and then they would heat it up, and the vapor from it they'd inhale it," Goodwin said.

Tin foil or gum wrappers can also be used to inhale heroin, and so can pens that have been pulled apart.

"And then they can use this for snorting up, and they can use it actually for drawing on it for a pipe," Goodwin said.

The heroin high can often leave users with a sugar craving, so look for an unusual amount of candy wrappers.

"I missed those early signs, and I have to live with it the rest of my days, but how did I miss it?" said John Roberts, co-founder of HERO.

Brian Kirk and John Roberts both had sons who died of heroin overdoses. They co-founded the group HERO, which aims to educate parents about the warning signs.

"If you have to take the door off the hinges, then take the door off the hinges. If you have to inspect his bedroom, then inspect his bedroom," Kirk said.

Goodwin also suggests parents check their child's waste basket often. Plastic bags with the corners cut off are a red flag, as the corners can be used to transport and sell packets of drugs.

For more information about HERO, visit: http://theherofoundation.org/.

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