Substance abuse prevention experts have a warning for parents about the secret stash containers that could be found in a young person's bedroom.
There are certain items that could be a sign of drug or alcohol abuse, experts said.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said 1,017 people died from accidental overdoses in Connecticut in 2018 and projected that the state will exceed that number by the end of 2019.
"I found my son in his bedroom, um, he had passed away," said Christine Gagnon of Southington.
In July 2017, she found the body of her son, Mike, lifeless on the floor of his bedroom in the family's home. He had just overdosed after snorting pure fentanyl in his bedroom, Gagnon said.
"This is our home and looking back, there were a lot of good times and that one bad time does not erase all the wonderful times," she said about currently living in the home where Mike passed away.
More than two years after Mike's death, Gagnon still wonders if there were warning signs in her son's bedroom that she might not have seen because she did not necessarily know what to look for.
"I would second guess myself," said Gagnon.
"They're very, very, very creative," Gagnon said of a young person's efforts to conceal substance abuse or addiction. "It's important for parents just not to glance over on top of desks and under beds," she said.
Team members from The Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals (CAPP) demonstrated some of the new ways kids can conceal drug or alcohol use from parents.
There are many inexpensive products on sale online with marketing to "hide your stash." Experts told NBC Connecticut Investigates that a lot of kids already know about these inconspicuous items, so it is important that parents recognize the warning signs.
"What's available at kids' fingertips these days, it's difficult to kind of keep a pulse on it as a parent," said Cristal DePietro, CAPP’s vice president. "It's really important that you're the first source of information to your kids and that you're the person that has the conversation about drugs and alcohol with your kids."
Some of the items that CAPP displayed included a gum container with a false bottom that could be opened to reveal a small area to potentially hold drugs or drug paraphernalia. Other items included what had the appearance - and the weight - of an unopened soft drink can, of which the base could be unscrewed to access another small hiding place.
"Just at first glance, looks like a normal, regular ladies deodorant," said CAPP team member Haley Shoop as she popped off the bottom of what appeared to be a deodorant stick, as well as an umbrella and a hair brush. "It's just a regular hairbrush, but if you look a little bit closer, you can kind of see the top here, it unscrews," said Shoop.
"These items are available to purchase for $25 and under," DePietro said. "The more knowledge you have and the more knowledge your young person has, the better off they're going to be."
Gagnon said that communication between parent and child is key.
"It's very hard to do," said Gagnon. "But the most important thing is to ask the questions but ask the questions in a loving way." She said parents should always trust their instincts. "The gut feeling that something's not right - go with it."
Gagnon also serves as vice-chair of the board of TriCircle, Inc., an organization created to break the cycle of recidivism that exists in the current system of addiction recovery. TriCircle is currently accepting applications for the Michael F. Gagnon II 2020 Scholarship.
To learn more about interactive mock bedroom demonstrations by the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals, click here.