Eagle Scout project teaches parents about the signs of drug addiction

Photo by Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News. Used with permission.

Corey Eisert-Wlodarczyk will never forget that day in March 2012 when his brother died of a heroin overdose.

Corey was just 11 years old when Collin died, and the memory lingers.

After the initial shock subsided, Corey began to speak at schools. He wanted to share his experience with other young people. If more people knew about Collin’s tragic death, Corey figured, lives could be saved.

But he wanted to do more than talk. Realizing that parents play an important role in recognizing and treating drug abuse, Corey had an idea. For his Eagle Scout service project, he would re-create a teenager’s bedroom.

At first glance, the room looks pretty normal. But, once educated, parents saw what was lurking just out of view: items associated with drug use and addiction.

“The education factor comes into play by taking parents through the bedroom so that they can learn the warning signs they should look for before it is too late,” Corey said.

Photo by Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News. Used with permission.

Fake room, real impact

Corey and his volunteers built a fake bedroom using prefabricated pieces of drywall.

The room looked great, but it was nearly impossible to transport. Each time Corey wanted to take it somewhere new, setup would take hours.

So he planned version 2.0. This time, the entire bedroom would fit inside a trailer: awareness on wheels. Now Corey’s message goes anywhere accessible by pickup.

The Erie County (Pa.) Health Department gave Corey a $5,000 grant to complete the project. Thanks to the grant, orchestrated by Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, Corey bought and outfitted the trailer.

Lives saved

The project has traveled the region, educating parents at each stop along the way. Corey’s effort has gained local and national attention.

The impact hasn’t just been on families who visit the trailer. It has changed Corey, too.

“From this project I came in knowing several things. I knew how devastating a loss in the family could be and wanted to do my very best to prevent other families from having to deal with the same. I knew that America is currently in an epidemic of heroin use across the country and wanted to impact that cause,” he said. “I came out of my project having a greater understanding about myself, my family and how truly important it is to positively impact your community.”

Corey says the heroin epidemic is “one of the most serious and crippling issues in America today.”

But he’s optimistic that things can turn around.

“My deep belief is that the greatest weapon we have against it is education,” he said. “That is exactly what I hope to provide with my project.”

Eagle Scout project showcase

The Boys’ Life Eagle Scout project showcase includes even more terrific projects.

7 Comments

  1. This interesting, but neither the local/national news articles that you linked nor this article tells what’s in the bedroom.

    From the picture, a water bottle with tape wrapped around it could have been sliced apart then taped back together to stash drugs inside? It seems like anyone picking that water bottle up would feel how flimsy it now is, with its structural rigidity destroyed, and know that it’s not what it seems. There’s a pill bottle laying out on top of the dresser. What else should people be looking for?

    How is this actually useful?

    • Bart, that’s intentional. If we were to list or show everything in the bedroom, drug users would simply change what they do and where they hide things. It would become a list of “what not to do,” and parents would again be a step behind.

      • Bryan, let’s be honest. How many drug users do you think actually read this blog? Now, having considered that, is it more important to get the message out to parents and people who can make a difference, or to hide everything that parents should look for unless they happen to live in the one small part of the country where people might actually see this trailer?

        I live in Idaho. I doubt he’ll be visiting me anytime soon.

        It’s probably better to look for psychological/physical changes — your child suddenly stops doing their extracurricular activities? Your child sits around the house all the time every day but still maintains a low weight? You can smell smoke on your child’s clothing?

        I’ve already pointed out how useless the water-bottle stash tip is, in my opinion. Are we just talking about things like, “If you see music by X, who promotes drugs, and you see rainbow-colored peace signs then you child is probably a hippie who does drugs…”? If you see Altoid boxes but your child never takes an Altoid and there’s a strange powder/substance inside, it’s probably drugs. If you find pills that you don’t remember paying for, since your child probably doesn’t pay their own medical bills, then it’s probably drugs. This isn’t rocket science.

        • HI Bart! I appreciate your concern with the usefulness of the project, yet would like to highlight some things that were interpreted incorrectly. “How many drug users read this blog” is a big part of the problem! A huge stigma surrounds who can be a drug user and I am here to tell you that it can be anyone from an Eagle Scout to a convicted criminal so the caution surrounding revealing the contents of the trailer has to be there. Next, the trailer has been featured across the nation and other organizations have contacted me saying they wish to create something similar, so while I will probably not drive to Idaho some other activist might! The informational posters in the trailer also stress the importance of the changes in the child such as attitude and energy level as you mentioned. To address the water bottle, the inside is reinforced with locking plastic and is completely covered by the label. So it is very difficult to tell that it is a stash bottle but I appreciate the interest. Also to claim that this isn’t rocket science is a sad misconception. As trends develop discovering drug use in your child is incredibly difficult. I know from first hand experience that my brother covered it very well before his death. While I do enjoy the criticism please take into consideration all aspects of the situation.

  2. Hi Bart, those are great questions. I work in the drug prevention field and Hidden in Plain Sight is a program that has been catching on in recent years, hampered only by the cost of assembling and storing the materials needed to do correctly. I can answer some of your questions as the initiative is somewhat standardized in terms of what is to be included, but before I do I have to say that this young man has done an excellent job from what I can see. He’s managed to recreate a bedroom with actual furniture in a way that is highly portable and easily to store, its right up there with some of the best I’ve seen put together by Sheriff’s departments with a budget for it.

    Anyway, part of the point is that the things are literally hiding in plain sight, they are meant to be missed at first glance and not closely inspected. The water bottle would not stand close scrutiny as you point out, for instance but most parents wouldn’t think to inspect it closely. The Red Bull can on the dresser is fake, its a safe sold by several companies ostensibly to hide valuables from burglars, who would skip over something like that in the short time they are in the house, but they are also commonly used to hide drugs. There is most likely also something taped behind the mirror, and something hidden between the cushions. Additionally, there is usually paraphernalia that many parents who don’t know drug culture wouldn’t recognize, such as grinders, or wouldn’t automatically associate with drugs, such as electric scales (I’m not sure from this angle if the black box on the dresser is a clock radio or a scale). Another common thing is a fake wall outlet, though I’m not sure he’d be able to do that with a trailer.

    So, when this even is run, parents enter the room with the challenge to find all the drug related or potentially drug related objects and hiding places. After they think they’ve found everything, the person running the event tells them what they missed. The basic objective here is to educate parents on several things to look for as well as the need to look more closely than just the surface level. Like you said, pick up the bottle and you know something is off, but you need to actually pick up the bottle first, and how many parents see a water bottle and think nothing of it? The display is often supplemented by a presentation involving local law enforcement and professionals from drug prevention agencies. This presentation goes into greater detail about what’s in the display, as well as current drug trends, typically localized so they reflect what’s actually happening in the community. After participating, parents should be more aware of the warning signs they learned about, and more likely to notice them in their own homes, and more likely to actively look for them. Parents should notice the water bottle or energy drink can sitting there for a couple weeks and have it raise a flag

    Another website (I have no affiliation with) with some more examples http://powertotheparent.org/hidden-in-plain-sight/.

    I hope this was helpful!

  3. I see what Bart meant by this article missing some great points. It lead up to being very helpful, but was a big let down when it didn’t share the tips that it should have. I think that Corey did a really great job, and is doing a very important service that will help save lives. Just too bad this article didn’t share more of the tips Corey shares in his little sample bedroom.

  4. I can appreciate that the article leaves this important information out. It’s meant to bring awareness. If you want more information, do your own research. Go on the internet, research how to teenagers hide drugs, or whatever you think you should be looking for. Research law enforcement and narcotics division that will provide that info. Call your local department of these law agencies and simply ask. You may already know people in your life who have had an experience with drugs either themselves or one of their family members. Just ask and get the conversation started. Great article!!!

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