Counselor Susan Grunert examines a pipe disguised as a highlighter pen during a training session at Carson High School on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Hannah McDonald, training specialist with Partnership Carson City, taught a group of counselors on the latest trends in drugs and paraphernalia among youth. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Pipes disguised as highlighter pens and lipstick cases. Aerosol cans and water bottles that are secret containers for stashing drugs. Hannah McDonald, youth program coordinator and training specialist for Partnership Carson City, laid out in a presentation for counselors at Carson High School some of the ways youth are hiding their drug use.

“There’s so many sneaky ways they have to hide what they’re doing,” said counselor Mandy Chambers. “It’s scary.” McDonald said it is important for high school and other community officials to be aware of the trends.

“These stash containers may be the easiest way to get drugs on campus,” she said. “They’re transporting them with these to sell to the other kids.” In her presentation, McDonald covered a wide array of potentially harmful substances from energy drinks to synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts or cough syrup sold over the counter.

“Synthetic drugs, also known as designer drugs, have an addiction rate five times higher than other drugs,” she said. “Teens go into this completely blind.”
She said parents may see energy drinks as relatively harmless, but she noted a 12-ounce can of Coke has 34 milligrams of caffeine, while energy drinks contain 160 milligrams for the same size. In addition, they contain several substances not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

“Believe it or not, these are a gateway to other stimulants,” McDonald said. “Eventually, the body gets used to these and just needs something more.” Through Partnership Carson City, a nonprofit committed to the health and wellness of the city, McDonald shares the presentation with any interested groups in the community.

“It covers most of the trending drugs,” she said. “It provides the recognition of what the drugs look like and a basic awareness of what to be aware of. Being aware is crucial to preventing drug use, or knowing what steps to take if someone is already using.”

Along with the information, McDonald also brings along samples of different drugs and paraphernalia to familiarize participants with them. “It’s all about trends so every two years we upgrade the program and make changes to it,” she said. “I probably give about 10 presentations a year.”

Carson High School counselor Nicki Hendee organized Monday’s presentation for her fellow counselors.
“It was eye-opening to see all the things that are going on with our students we didn’t know about,” Hendee said. “It will help us to know what to look for and better assist our students.”

For Your Information
For more information about Partnership Carson City or to schedule a presentation, go to