Recognizing Teen Drug Paraphernalia

One of the best ways to identify drug use is recognizing the items that are used to store and consume drugs, often referred to as drug paraphernalia.

Parents who suspect that their teenager is using drugs are often uneasy about confronting their child without concrete evidence.

Most parents know that a syringe or pill bottle is cause for alarm, but they may not realize that some drug paraphernalia products are disguised as everyday items. According to the DEA, drug pipes are often hidden in familiar items like lipstick cases and magic markers. Soda cans with false bottoms are sold as containers for drugs. Some teens re-purpose everyday items without disguising them, such as storing pills in a breath mint container or marijuana joints in a cigarette pack.

Different types of drugs are associated with different paraphernalia. According to the DEA, these are some of the most common items to look for:

Marijuana Paraphernalia

The most common items associated with Marijuana are:

  • rolling papers
  • pipes
  • bongs (glass water pipes)
  • lighters
  • plastic bags (ie ziploc bags – especially tiny ones)

.Parents should also be aware that incense and room deodorizers are often used to disguise the smell of smoke. Marijuana users frequently use items like these to hide the evidence of marijuana use:

  • eye drops
  • cologne
  • mouthwash
  • sunglasses (worn at inappropriate times)

Note that teens who are using Spice may possess some of the same paraphernalia that’s used for marijuana.

Cocaine Paraphernalia

  • Mirrors and razor blades (are used to chop cocaine into a fine powder)
  • Straws and rolled paper tubes (are then used to inhale it)

Crack cocaine requires a significant amount of equipment, including:

  • spoons and lighters (to heat the drug)
  • small glass pipes or tubes (for smoking it)
  • empty soda cans or a piece of foil may be used as makeshift pipe for crack cocaine

The same paraphernalia that’s used for cocaine may also be used for Bath Salts.

Ecstasy Paraphernalia

  • mentholated rub
  • glow sticks
  • surgical masks

The above items are used to stimulate the senses while under the influence of Ecstasy. Users often suck on lollipops or pacifiers to avoid grinding their teeth, a side effect of the drug.

Inhalants Paraphernalia

  • spray cans
  • tubes of glue

Those two items are the most obvious signs of inhalant abuse. Additional paraphernalia may include:

  • balloons
  • plastic bags
  • rags
  • empty bottles or cans that have a strong chemical smell.

Counter Cultural or “Drug Culture” Clothing and Accessories

In addition to drug paraphernalia, teenagers who appear to be fans of drug culture are likely to be drug abusers. Clothing or posters with pictures of marijuana leaves or books and magazines about drug use are possible indicators of a drug lifestyle. Indications that a teen has been viewing YouTube videos related to drug use or visiting websites that sell drugs or discuss their use are additional clues that the teen is abusing drugs.

Some parents feel that their teenager has a right to privacy and are uncomfortable about searching their room or car or checking up on their computer use. While this is a matter of personal preference, there is no denying that the best way to collect concrete proof of drug use is to check a teenager’s belongings for obvious or hidden drug paraphernalia. Parents should be aware that if they do find drugs or drug paraphernalia in their teen’s possession, they will probably be accused to snooping or spying. This is a diversionary tactic used by many teens to take the focus off their drug abuse problem.

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