Recognizing Drug Paraphernalia: What Should You Look For?

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Recognizing Drug Paraphernalia: What Should You Look For?

Currently, America is facing a drug epidemic that is out of control.  For that reason, all citizens should learn all they can about the dangers of substance abuse.  Also, information on recognizing drug paraphernalia is vital.  This knowledge makes it possible for someone to intervene and prevent addiction or overdose.

Paraphernalia is a term that describes business items such as books, stickers, brochures, pens, or mugs that promote a brand or product.  Surprisingly, many people think of drug paraphernalia as the same sort of concept.  But, in the world of drugs, the word takes on a completely different connotation.

So, what constitutes drug paraphernalia and what should you do if you spot these items?

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Methods of drug ingestion vary depending on the substance involved.  As such, the paraphernalia required for the process will also differ.  However, some items are commonly used.  Recognizing drug paraphernalia can be difficult because many of the products are similar in design to products used for legitimate purposes.

According to the US Department of Justice:

The term drug paraphernalia refers to any equipment that is used to produce, conceal, and consume illicit drugs. It includes but is not limited to items such as bongs, roach clips, miniature spoons, and various types of pipes.”

Under Federal Law, the term refers to:

Any equipment, product, or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

Where Do People Get Drug Paraphernalia?

Most substance abusers have limited funds, so they make their own paraphernalia.  Here are a few examples of how creative a drug abuser can be:

  • Household items can be used to make pipes.
  • Law enforcement officers have found people using light bulbs to smoke crystal meth.
  • Some use razor blades and mirrors to cut cocaine or meth before snorting it.
  • Sandwich bags and plastic containers are used to store their drugs.
  • Toilet paper is used to “parachute” drugs.  Users roll crushed drugs n a piece of toilet paper and orally ingest it.  This process helps the user avoid the unpleasant taste of the drug.
  • Spoons are used to liquefy or dissolve drugs such as heroin to prepare them for injection.
  • Dryer sheets mask the smell of marijuana.
  • Steel wool is used to separate meth or crack that is cooking in a glass tube.  This process keeps the burning drug away from the user’s mouth while allowing the smoke to get through.

Of course, people use many other household items that aren’t listed above.  A complete list of items can be found on the DEA website.

Drug paraphernalia is available through mail-order, the Internet, tobacco shops, novelty shops, convenience stores, and head shops.

Is It Legal to Sell or Purchase Drug Paraphernalia?

Selling or purchasing drug paraphernalia is illegal.  So, how do the head shops and stores get away with it?  Creative marketing makes it possible.  For instance, a “bong” is advertised as a “novelty water pipe.”  A bowl for smoking marijuana sells as a “novelty tobacco pipe.”  “Jewelry cases” are drug storage containers.

Interestingly, these items only become illegal after someone buys them, leaves the store, and uses the item for an illicit purpose.  These items are not technically illegal until the person uses it for making, hiding, or getting high.  Law enforcement must be able to prove there is drug residue on the item in order to classify it as drug paraphernalia.

Recognizing Drug Paraphernalia in the Home

Parents of teenagers face many challenges today.  Of course, watching for signs of drug use is one of the most difficult.  Teens evade scrutiny in creative ways.

Therefore, parents can watch for the following signs in the home:

  • Frequent use of breath fresheners and eye drops
  • Wearing sunglasses at odd times
  • Empty marker or pen casings, hollow lipstick tubes
  • Bags of unusual “candy” or “incense
  • Rolling papers
  • Lighters and matches
  • Small metal clips
  • Needles
  • Balloons, nozzles
  • Straws or rolled-up dollar bills
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What to Do if You Find Items You Suspect

If you think you’ve found drug paraphernalia, it may be tempting to demand an explanation from the person. On the other hand, it may be tempting to deny your suspicions and hope the issue resolves itself.  Neither of these reactions is the correct way to respond.

The best response is to have a plan before approaching the individual.  You should not go on a rampage and accuse, blame, or demand the immediate cessation of drug use. Ultimately, a compassionate and positive approach is best. In most cases, it’s best to enlist the services of a professional interventionist.  An interventionist can help you make use of the evidence in a way that will convince your teen to get treatment.

Recognizing drug paraphernalia is the first step in saving someone from the devastation that comes with substance abuse.  The next step is to choose a treatment program that offers evidence-based methods for addressing all aspects of the addiction.  Contact us at A Forever Recovery today if someone you love needs treatment for addiction.


  •– Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts
  • – Offenses and Penalties: Drug Paraphernalia

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