Substance Use

How to Recognize Drug Paraphernalia and Drug Addiction in a Loved One

pills drugs lighter needles spoon

TABLE OF CONTENTSTable of Contents

What Does Drug Addiction Look Like?

Millions of people in the U.S. struggle with substance abuse and drug addiction daily. Family and friends can have difficulty recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug addiction. For many people, knowing that a loved one has an addiction to drugs can be overwhelming and scary and ignite a number of uncomfortable emotions. But it’s critical for parents, spouses, and other family members to recognize addiction symptoms and act quickly. The sooner someone can get treatment for substance use disorder, the faster they can recover.

Getting treatment early in the course of the disease increases the chances that someone will be able to achieve and maintain lifelong sobriety. The following article will break down the symptoms of addiction and the different types of paraphernalia involved in drug use, so families can act quickly.

What are the symptoms of drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a disease that affects a person physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. While different drugs may affect a person in slightly different ways, a number of core, common symptoms are present in the disease of addiction, regardless of the particular substance a person is abusing.

Physical symptoms:

  • Sleeping too much, too little, or at odd times of the day and night
  • Sudden, severe changes in appetite and weight
  • Looking tired, rundown, or sickly
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Red or teary eyes
  • Unexplained drowsiness or high energy
  • Sudden tooth decay or ulcers
  • Congestion and nasal issues
  • Changes in the skin, including the appearance of track marks

Emotional symptoms:

  • Agitation and irritability
  • Euphoria and high energy
  • Feeling suspicious or paranoid
  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Denial and impulsivity
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • In people with mental illness, symptoms of mental illness may be intensified

Behavioral issues:

  • Changes in friends or peers
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Missing work or school
  • Become secretive and isolate themselves
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Sudden changes in appearance and clothing choices
  • Getting into legal, financial, and/or relationship trouble

If a person begins to exhibit these types of symptoms, drug abuse may be to blame. Some symptoms may vary somewhat depending on whether a person is taking stimulates, opiates, or other drugs.

Common drug paraphernalia items:

  • Empty prescription pill bottles
  • Rolling papers
  • Small, glass vials
  • Empty plastic sandwich bags in various sizes
  • Foil and broken pens
  • Lighters and cigarettes
  • Empty cigarette packs

Marijuana Paraphernalia

Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Regardless of whether it has been decriminalized in your state, it is still possible to become dependent and addicted to marijuana. Marijuana use is particularly dangerous for teens. The drug can trigger mental health issues and lead to poor academic performance and other outcomes. Marijuana is usually smoked or vaporized, and the following items can be used in its consumption:

  • Pipes or items fashioned into a pipe
  • Broken lighters missing the safety tab
  • Rolling papers
  • Unrolled cigars that are filled with marijuana and rerolled
  • Bongs
  • Vaporizers
  • Roach clips
  • E-cigarettes used to vaporize marijuana concentrates

Heroin and Opiate Derivative Paraphernalia

Heroin and opiate addiction has been wreaking havoc across the United States. More than 130 people per day die from overdosing on prescription opiate drugs. Many will eventually turn to cheaper, more easily accessible drugs like heroin or fentanyl. Heroin addiction is one of the most challenging addictions to treat, and injecting heroin has a high risk of transmitting and infecting others with the bloodborne diseases HIV and hepatitis C. The following items are often found when a person is addicted to heroin or opiates:

  • Empty prescription pill bottles
  • Pill bottles hidden in strange places
  • Tin foil
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Plastic pen cases or cut-up drinking straws used to administer the drug
  • Pipes
  • Small spoons for heating the drug

Cocaine Paraphernalia

Cocaine is a white-powder drug that can be snorted, ingested, injected, or vaporized and smoked. Cocaine that is intended to be smoked is processed into a rock crystal form and then vaporized in a pipe, called crack cocaine. Cocaine powder can also be dissolved in water and then injected. Each method requires a different set of paraphernalia items, but most people who abuse cocaine will snort the drug.

  • Pipes
  • Mirrors
  • Spoons
  • Plastic straws
  • Rolled-up paper tubes
  • Razor blades
  • Lighters
  • Needles, if cocaine is being injected

Untreated, cocaine addiction can lead to numerous irreversible cardiovascular issues and significantly increase a user’s risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. If cocaine is injected, users put themselves at risk of HIV or hepatitis C transmission.

Inhalants Paraphernalia

People sometimes inhale industrial chemicals and other everyday household items to get high. On the street, these drugs are referred to as “whippets” and are a cheap and easy way for teens and young adults to get high. Abusing inhalants can cause hallucinations, permanent brain damage, and organ damage. 

  • Rags soaked in chemicals
  • Tubes of glue
  • Balloons and nozzles
  • Bottles of aerosol cans

Ecstasy and MDMA (Molly)

Ecstasy and MDMA (known as “Molly”) are mind-altering, psychoactive drugs that give the user a powerful high and increased energy. These drugs are usually sold on the black market as a powder or colorful tablets resembling candy. Ecstasy and MDMA are recreational drugs people typically take in nightclub settings.

  • Glow sticks and dust masks
  • Lollipops and pacifiers to prevent jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • Bags of colorful candy to mask ecstasy tablets

Methamphetamine

Meth is a potent stimulant drug that is usually smoked, although it can also be injected. The drug is often sold in small plastic bags and has the appearance of ice shards or crystals, giving it the name “crystal meth.” The drug is comprised of many different industrial waste products and harsh chemicals. Untreated methamphetamine addiction can cause numerous dental, skin, and other health problems. Methamphetamine addicts who inject the drug risk contracting HIV or hepatitis C.

  • Pipes for smoking meth
  • Light bulbs, tin foil, and aluminum cans
  • Needles and syringes
  • Sandwich bags
  • Empty pen containers and cut straws

Paraphernalia Used to Hide Drug Use

People addicted to drugs will often use certain items to hide or cover up their drug use. Drugs often leave behind tell-tale smells and other evidence of their abuse.

  • Eyedrops for hiding red or bloodshot eyes
  • Sunglasses for covering up red eyes, dilated or constricted pupils, or unnatural eye movements brought on by drug use
  • Breath mints, mouth wash, and breath sprays

Why would someone need to recognize different types of drug paraphernalia?

In many cases, drug use starts during the teenage years. The younger a person begins abusing the drugs, the more mental and physical health risks they expose themselves to. In addition, drug use during the teen years that is left untreated well into adulthood makes it much harder for a person to kick the habit and become clean.

The longer a person abuses drugs, the higher their risk of fatally overdosing. It’s crucial that people can recognize the signs of drug abuse in their teenagers or loved ones because stopping addiction early leads to much healthier, more positive outcomes for everyone involved.

If someone finds paraphernalia in a loved one’s possession, how can they approach their loved one?

Discovering that a loved one is abusing drugs can be terrifying and feel like a betrayal of trust. Confronting a loved one from a place of anger or fear can make things worse. It is essential to take a step back and fully assess the situation before confronting the problem with a loved one.

First, it’s critical to understand how addiction works. When someone continually puts themselves in harm’s way by abusing a substance, they often struggle with intense physiological factors beyond their control. Addiction completely rewires the brain’s risk and reward system. Once a person forms a dependence on a drug, quitting induces painful, distressing withdrawal symptoms that can be difficult and risky to overcome without outside intervention.

Second, people will need to research available treatment options for their loved ones. Withdrawing from drugs without medical intervention can be dangerous and increase the chances of relapse. Researching ahead of time can also help someone determine which type of treatment would be the most beneficial for the addicted family member. Knowing what kind of drug a loved one is addicted to and researching available treatment facilities for that specific substance can help concerned family members obtain effective treatment interventions.

Finding drug paraphernalia in a loved one’s possession can be a terrifying experience. Although addiction can be challenging to treat, many effective treatment methods for drug abuse and addiction exist. It doesn’t matter what substance someone is addicted to — every drug addiction can be successfully treated with integrated treatment methods from an experienced team of licensed addiction specialists.

If your loved one is struggling with drug addiction, contact a representative at a Zinnia Healing rehab center or call (855) 430-9439 to explore your options for treatment.