DES MOINES, Iowa -- A day at the Iowa State Fair took a sharp turn for Urbandale parent Melissa Vogel. "It was shocking as parents," said Vogel.
A trailer put up by RALI, an opioid addiction awareness group, and Code 3 is taking parents through a makeshift teenage bedroom to spot signs of drug use.
"Soot underneath the spoon from being held over a lighter or heat source," said Carrie Padgett, who lost her brother to drug addiction. She is one of the tour guides with Code 3. Padgett says that soot from heating and liquefying drugs can also appear elsewhere in subtle ways. "There’s some on the wall and there’s some on the bathroom counter here and the light switch," she said.
Other signs can be as small as missing shoelaces. Padgett says, "Those have been pulled out to be used for tourniquets to pop a vein out for injecting." Baggies of drugs inside alarm clocks is another thing to look out for. "An electric alarm clock with a backup battery compartment which is perfect for hiding ziplocks," she said.
Even water bottles are more than meets the eye. "Another personal safe. This always blows people away because it looks so real," said Padgett.
Some items are real, like a computer mouse also used to measure the weight of drugs. Padgett opened up the mouse to reveal a digital screen and said, "A working computer mouse, also a digital scale. These are sold online."
All week parents have walked out stunned. Vogel said, "I would have never gone into this room and thought there were any signs of drug use." Some people were visibly emotional. "I've had a couple of moms do this and their eyes get teary. So, I know they are seeing something."
Unfortunately, many of the tips RALI and Code 3 use are from what parents learned about their deceased kids after an overdose. "She says I saw it but I thought it was candy wrappers, and you can see some of the zips are brightly colored," said Padgett.
Also available to fairgoers at the booth is a bag for prescription pills, liquids and patches to be safely discarded in an eco-friendly way. Vogel said, "I don’t think anybody thinks it’s going to be their child, but going through here you realize it could be anybody’s child."
The RALI booth is located just to the southwest of the Varied Industries Building. You can learn more about RALI by going to www.rali-ia.org