The Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office is teaming up with Addiction is Real, Inc. (A.I.R.) which is a non-profit out of St. Louis. The group is bringing an interactive exhibit called “Hidden in Plain View” to Evansville this Friday.

A.I.R. trains parents on how to spot signs of their teenagers possibly abusing drugs.

Amy Mangold talks with A.I.R. Vice President Kelly Prunty and Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann about how the exhibit helps parents and how to prevent kids from abusing drugs.

Click here for more information on A.I.R. and how they train parents around the country.

Transcript of interview:

Amy Mangold: “The Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office is teaming up with Addiction is Real Inc. Or air a non-profit out of St. Louis. The group is bringing an interactive exhibit called “Hidden in Plain View” to Evansville this Friday. It’s a way for parents to spot signs of a teen abusing drugs. I’m joined now by Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann and Kelly Prunty who is the vice president of air. So Kelly, tell us a little bit about air, what you do and how you got started.”

Kelly Prunty: “We got started as a group of parents who have all been touched by addiction in some way whether it was a child, a sibling or an addict themselves. We got together and wanted to make a difference in the community in a way that wasn’t being done already and we found that there was some great research out there showing that kids whose parents talked to them about the dangers of drugs from a really young age are 50 percent less likely to use them. So, we thought we need to start talking to parents early and often and educate them on how to talk to their own kids and what to look for to intervene early if their kids do go down that path.”

Amy Mangold: “And Nick again, your office has brought this group in.  How did you find them and what prompted you to bring them to Evansville?”

Nick Hermann: “We’ve been looking for ways to educate the community and particularly parents about addiction and about things they may see with their children or their friends and family. I’d like to take all the credit for bringing them, but it was acutally Jess Powers in our office that found this program. I think through social media and brought it to our attention. And we thought it was a great idea to bring into the community to share with parents — what to look for when their children are addicted to drugs.” 

Amy Mangold: “So how prevalent is the teen abuse problem in Vanderburgh County?”

Nick Hermann: “Well, we have a huge opiod problem in our area and that has expanded into heroin, and particularly, now we are seeing heroin laced with fentanyl. We’re seeing a lot of, unfortunately, a lot of overdose deaths. They rise year over year. We’ve already beat the number from last year and we still have three months left. So, I mean, it’s something that’s on the rise here and we just want to.. we want to get the education piece out. And we’re looking for different ways to educate parents to talk to their children and to know what may be coming if somebody heads down that road.” 

Amy Mangold: “So Kelly, tell us a little bit about what you say when you speak to parents? I know you have age appropriate because you really have to start these conversations at a very young age.” 

Kelly Prunty: “Yeah. So, where we’re coming from in St. Louis, in Missouri, the average first alcohol use is in sixth grade and the average first marijuana use is in seventh grade. So that would mean you need to start talking to your kids before they’re even going to middle school. So, we have educational materials that teach parents how to talk to their pre-schoolers. Obviously, you’re not going to talk to your preschooler about heroin, but you can talk to your pre-schooler about medicines that you get from the doctor and how you safely use those and that you never take a medicine that’s not there for you. And you never share medicines and so on. We teach parents how to talk to kids at all different ages in hopes that they’ll start those conversations early.” 

Amy Mangold: “As a parent, I wish I had this program whenever my kids were younger. You always think that it’s not going to happen to you or that it’s not going to be an issue. And this is a great, great way to show parents and I’d like for you to show us through some of these props because they are mindblowing. I was just shocked at some of the ways that kids can hide these signs. Can you walk us throug some of these things?”

Kelly Prunty: “In our actual bedroom exhibit we have over 70 items that should be a red flag to the parent that the child is using alcohol or drugs. For instance, a lot of things are hiding places. For instance in a hat, there’s a bindyl in here that can hide some sort of powder whether it be heroin or cocaine. There are a lot of stash cans in the bedroom, and these can be ordered on Amazon Prime or found in local shops. They have what looks like a typical water bottle. It’s even weighted, so it feels real. But if you swish it around, you realize it’s not real water in there. And this bottle opens up, and there’s a place to hide things. So, it’s good for parents to know that these things exist and know to go into your kids room, pick things, up, look inside them. Another soda can, it’s a a real A&W can, but it’s been converted into a stash safe. So, it’s the perfect place to hide.” 

Amy Mangold: “Now, another kind of trigger is kids are starting to mix ingredients that you would find around the home. You don’t realize they’re putting these things together in order to get a high. Can you show us some of the ingredients you should be on the look out for or even have in your home as just a normal household use?” 

Kelly Prunty: “Right, and researchers show that’s where kids will start. So, they are going to start messing around with substances. It’s going to start in the home, things they can easily get their hands on. But things like cough syrup or prescription medications, one thing to look out for is a ‘sizzurp’ trend where kids are calling it ‘sizzurping’. They use Sprite and candy such as Skittles to mix with NyQuil to taste better, and they’re drinking the NyQuil to get the alcohol content out of it.” 

Amy Mangold: “And I also see hand sanitizer and salt, so two very common household items.” 

Kelly Prunty: “Right, and if you pour the salt into the hand sanitizer, it will separate the alcohol in there so it can be drank.” 

Amy Mangold: “Now, as we we’re talking beforehand, there’s one particularly dangerous thing they can do. If you see something like this, a soda bottle, some liquid in the bottom, and a hand pump, they are combining these things to do something dangerous. Explain a little bit more about that.” 

Kelly Prunty: “Yeah, so kids are now vaporizing alcohol which means if they pump enough air into this bottle, it can turn the alcohol into a gas that they can now breathe in and it goes into their bloodstream that way. It’s incredibly dangerous because it can’t be taken out if it was in your stomach and you drank it, so kids can get intoxicated very quickly and very dangerous.” 

Amy Mangold: “Alright, and Nick if a parent suspects something is going on, where can they turn? What can they do? What are some of those first steps?” 

Nick Hermann: “Well, I think the first step is to trust your gut. I think that it’s important to talk to the child, confront the child, confront the family member, and talk to them about it. You can contact your family physician. You can reach out to one of the great rehabilitation facilities that we have, addiction services. We have people that call the courts trying to get help. There are places that you can reach out to get help. But I think my caution is don’t ignore it. Everyone wants to assume the best and imagine someone is not doing something. But trust your gut and talk to your kids. Talk to your family members and be prepared to have that tough conversation about what’s going on because a lot of time people are trying to hide it, and like I said people want to ignore it. They want to pretend it’s not happening. They want to hope for the best. And sometimes the way that addiction works, it can get worse and worse at that time. So, I think early intervention is good. If you can talk to your kids about never getting into drugs and what they can do when they confront it, I think that’s even better. I think the younger age you can start education, the better.” 

Amy Mangold: “Kelly, thank you for being with us. Nick, thank you for being with us. Now if you want more information about this group and how they travel around the country and train parents, we’ll have a link to this story on our website. And you can find a link to their website on” 


(This story was originally published on October 4, 2014)