PLYMOUTH, Minn. - It may look like a messy room, but a mock bedroom at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is meant to teach parents, not frustrate them.

Hidden in plain sight are about 150 items that look normal to most of us, but addiction specialists say can be warning signs your child is in trouble.

"You look at it, you shake it, you wouldn’t realize anything was different,” said Jessica Wong with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation as she picked up a Coke can. “But you unscrew the top and it’s actual a secret storage place.”

She and others with the treatment center hosted a traveling exhibit. It’s a teen's bedroom filled with seemingly harmless items that instead could be used to get high, hurt yourself, or conceal a eating disorder.

"This necklace can be used to smoke drugs out of,” Wong said, holding up necklace that looked like a necklace.

On their own, they may be nothing but coupled with something like a change in a child's mood could be something, Wong added.

About 50 people showed up to the event. Others are planned across the state including at the Blaine Police Department on March 30 and the Minnesota School Social Workers Association Conference in Roseville from June 19 – 22.

Elizabeth Hace and her neighbor Lynn Waterman attended Wednesday. They have teenage children who go to Chanhassen High School, which had a number of students die from drug overdoses last year. The district was far from being alone.

"I’d like to say I’m an educated parent but I’m probably pretty naïve too because a lot has changed since we were kids,” said Hace.

“Technology is making it so much easier so just staying on top of it,” added Waterman.

But this was not a place to scare, but to inform, said experts. As parents do their best to discover what can often times be right in front of them.

"We want to parents investigate, to talk to their kids, to be involved,” said Wong.

For more information on the Top Secret Project and upcoming event dates, visit or contact Cendee Palmer at

Here are some suggestions from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation to lower your child's risk of getting involved with drugs and alcohol.

  • Encourage children and adolescents to become and stay involved in pro-social activities. These include sports, clubs and organized groups, mentor-mentee programs, arts organizations, as well as other supervised hobbies and activities.
  • Communicate with others in the community who seek your child’s best interests, such as schools, places of worship, and especially other parents and caregivers.
  • Most importantly, communicate with one’s children and teens, listening as much as talking

For more resources for families you can check out the Top Secret Project website.