Identifying Drug Paraphernalia

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For teens, peer pressure plays a pivotal role in life. Teens want to do what their friends do, and be accepted by as many people as possible, and they might make disastrous decisions as a result.

For example, many teens begin using drugs and alcohol simply because their friends do so. According to a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, having friends who used marijuana was closely associated with teen use of marijuana. Having friends who used drugs other than marijuana was associated with using drugs other than marijuana. Teens tend to do what their friends are doing.

Identifying Drug Paraphernalia

Parents may try to thwart drug use in their teens by looking over their friends closely, trying to see if these teens look like they might be users of drugs and alcohol. Examining all of the teen’s friends can be exhausting, however, and the teen might still have other friends at school or at parties that the parents might never meet. For these reasons, it might be best for parents to know what drug paraphernalia looks like, and then armed with this information, they can look for drug use in their own children. This may be a quick and efficient way to determine if the teen is using drugs now, or has used drugs in the recent past. See Related: How to Identify Drugs.

 Alcohol Paraphernalia

It’s easy to forget that alcohol is a drug, since its use is so widespread. In fact, many parents drink alcohol daily, as part of their evening rituals, and they may be immune to the fact that alcohol does come with related equipment that can be easily spotted.

Teens who begin to collect or display these alcohol-related items might need to have a firm talk with parents about their alcohol use.

For teens, water bottles and thermoses are the preferred way to carry alcohol from place to place. Rather than using translucent glasses or small flasks that seem to scream out that alcohol is being consumed, water bottles and thermoses are much more discreet, allowing the teen to feel more comfortable drinking in the open. A quick sniff test or taste test should help parents to detect alcohol.

Teens who take binge drinking seriously may have modified funnels they can use to “pound” beer or other forms of alcohol. Typically, these apparatuses contain a funnel attached to a long tube with a cap on the end. This equipment might contain traces of alcohol, as they can be hard to clean completely. Teens with this equipment should be talked to immediately.

Marijuana Paraphernalia

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana is one of the most popular drugs of abuse among teens. In 2011, 6.6 percent of teens in 12th grade reported using marijuana daily. Since marijuana use is so prevalent, parents truly must be on the lookout for any marijuana-related paraphernalia so they can talk to their kids about this drug.

Marijuana can be placed into baked goods or brewed into tea, but teens might prefer to smoke the drug so they can do so without entering the family kitchen and drawing suspicion. Teens who smoke marijuana in cigarette form might require tobacco papers, and they might leave behind tiny flecks of green or brown marijuana when they roll up their cigarettes for smoking. Teens might also use tiny pipes to smoke marijuana. These pipes are often made of glass, and they can be colorful and quite beautiful, with swirling designs and curling shapes. Some manufacturers also develop marijuana pipes that look like common objects, including markers and lipstick containers. Parents might discover these items are truly pipes when teens become frantic to find them, and no substitute will do. If a teen is missing a treasured felt-tip pen, for example, and a replacement felt-tip pen is somehow inadequate, the original pen might conceal a pipe.

Some teens use bongs – a type of water pipe that has a small opening in the base for drugs and a water basin to purify and vaporize the smoke from the drugs. Users then inhale the vapors. Bongs can be incredibly expensive, so teens might take care to hide them in places where they will not be knocked over or broken. Closets, drawers, attics or basements are common places teens stash these valuable items.

Rolling PapersThe pro-marijuana movement often uses a marijuana leaf on items marketed to teens such as:

  • Shirts
  • Baseball hats
  • Stickers
  • Notebook folders

Teens might also draw marijuana leaves on their shoes, their clothing or in doodles on their homework. This should also be considered paraphernalia, and should prompt a discussion.

Salvia and Spice Gear

These drugs are not marijuana, per se, but they’re often prepared in much the same way as one prepares a hit of marijuana. Therefore, teens who use these drugs often need the same types of equipment a marijuana user would need. Pipes, papers and bongs are common for users of these drugs.In addition, these drugs are often sold in tiny doses in colorful wrappers. These wrappers might keep the drugs preserved, but they must also be discarded when the drug use is finished. Teens who abuse these substances may be awash in papers after a binge, and these papers can be easily spotted by watchful parents. The papers may look as though they contained some sort of potpourri, and they may even be clearly marked as “not for human consumption.” At the same time, they may carry exotic names and colorful logos that would be appealing to young people.

Cocaine Paraphernalia

Powdered cocaine, which is often snorted directly into the nose or rubbed on the gums, must be chopped into a fine powder before it can be used. Teens who abuse this form of the drug might leave behind mirrors or bits of marble that can form a smooth, hard surface for this chopping prep. Teens might also collect rolled-up money they can use to sniff cocaine. Some online companies also sell equipment teens can use to snort cocaine, including tiny replicas of vacuum cleaners or tiny metal straws etched with designs. Some companies even sell “sniffers” – devices that can be preloaded with drugs and used all at once, so the teen doesn’t have to roll out lines before each and every dose. These devices might contain traces of cocaine when the user is done.According to Nemours, crack cocaine got its name from the cracking sound it makes when the tiny crystals of the drug are heated. While crack cocaine is usually much less expensive than powdered cocaine, users often have to do a significant amount of preparation work before they can use the drug, and this may cause them to collect a significant amount of paraphernalia. Teens often use spoons and a lighter to heat up crack cocaine, and they then inhale the drug using glass tubes. Since the glass is hot, teens may attach a rubber tube to the end of the glass, allowing them to avoid burning their lips or their fingers. Some teens use tiny, metal pipes to process crack cocaine. They heat the bottom of the pipe and then inhale the vapors from the other end. Teens who use crack cocaine might also create their own pipes out of discarded materials such as old pop cans or pieces of tinfoil.

Injectable Drug Equipment

Heroin might be the most instantly recognizable drug that teens inject, but it’s certainly not the only drug available. Teens can also inject crack cocaine or methamphetamine, and some crush prescription medications, mix them with water and inject those substances as well. Injectable drugs require needles, and people who abuse drugs may have a difficult time finding clean needles. As a result, teens who inject drugs might also hoard cleaning supplies like alcohol or Betadine so they can clean their needles and injection sites and use them over and over again. In order to make the injections easier, teens might also need rubber tubes they can tie around their arms, or belts that can be pulled tight around their arms. Teens might keep all of this equipment in one place, so it can quickly be grabbed when it’s time to use. They might keep all of these items in a tiny box, or they might roll the equipment in leather pouches.

Ecstasy Paraphernalia

The drug Ecstasy needs no real preparation, as it’s sold in a pill form that can quickly be swallowed on the spot, but teens who use the drug on a regular basis might begin to collect paraphernalia in order to enhance the sensations they feel while they’re under the influence of the drug. For example, some teens begin to collect glow sticks. These small, gel-filled sticks glow in the dark when they’re snapped, and they can be mesmerizing for teens who are under the influence of Ecstasy and dancing at an all-night party. Similarly, teens might also collect suckers, pacifiers or jawbreakers and take them to parties. Ecstasy tends to cause the user to clench or bite down with extreme force, and these tools can help users to feel more comfortable while on the drug.

Drug Storage

Some drugs are typically bought in bulk, meaning the teen must store the drug between uses. Common drugs that are stored include:

  • Marijuana
  • Crack cocaine
  • Salvia
  • Methamphetamine

These drugs are often expensive, and teens might go to great lengths to keep them preserved and safe. They might store the drugs in locking boxes, steel lunchboxes or elaborate carved cylinders. While some teens display these storage boxes in the open, others hide them from view so they can keep their contents safe from prying parental eyes.

What to Do

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, drug paraphernalia is illegal in the United States. While teens might believe that they can own these items as long as they don’t also own drugs, if they are caught with these items, they can face criminal prosecution. It is a serious problem, and many teens are just not aware that this is the case.

Parents who find paraphernalia are in an excellent position to confront their children about drug use and abuse.

Teens who deny drug use might have a harder time doing so when the proof of their abuse is looking right back at them, in the hands of their loving parents. Faced with this evidence, many teens will readily admit to their drug use, and they can begin to disclose how much they are using and how long the abuse has been continuing. These are important clues parents can use when deciding the next steps for care. See the Signs of Drug Abuse for more information on spotting a problem.

At Newport Academy, we specialize in treating adolescents who have issues with substance abuse, and teens who are also suffering from mental health issues. Speaking with one of our clinical professionals will provide the help and guidance you and your teen need to find a path to healing and recovery from substance abuse and mental health.

 Image courtesy of iStock.