A Guide to Recognizing Drug Paraphernalia and Drug Addiction in a Loved One

Millions of people in the U.S. struggle with substance abuse and drug addiction every day. For family and friends, it can be difficult to recognize 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 is able to 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.

Guide to Recognizing Drug Paraphernalia

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, there are a number of core, common symptoms that 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
  • Eyes that are red or teary.
  • 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 changes in mood.
  • 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 isolating themselves
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Sudden changes in appearance and clothing choices
  • Getting into legal, financial, and relationship trouble

If a person begins to exhibit these types of symptoms, it’s possible that drug use is to blame. Some of the symptoms may vary somewhat depending on whether a person is taking stimulates, opiates, or other drugs.

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  • 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 or not the drug has been decriminalized in a person’s 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 also 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 heroin. Heroin addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to treat, and injecting heroin comes with a high risk of transmitting and infecting others with 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 of use 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 to snort the drug
  • Razor blades
  • Lighters
  • Needles if cocaine is being injected

Untreated, cocaine addiction can lead to numerous and 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 will 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
  • Strange chemical odors on the person’s clothing

Ecstasy, MDMA, and Molly

Ecstasy, MDMA, and 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 as colorful tablets that resemble candy. Ecstasy, MDMA, and Molly are recreational drugs that people typically take in night club settings.

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


Meth is an incredibly powerful 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 that 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
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People who are 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 starts 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 is for fatally overdosing. It’s crucial that people are able to recognize the signs of drug abuse in their teenager or loved one 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?

Finding out 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 situation 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’re often struggling with intense physiological factors that are beyond their control. Addiction completely rewires the brain’s risk and reward system, and 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, loved ones will need to research available treatment options for their loved one. Withdrawing from drugs without medical intervention can be dangerous and also increases the chances of relapse. Researching ahead of time can also help someone find out 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, there are many effective treatment methods for drug abuse and addiction. 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, please contact a representative at Windward Way rehab center to explore your options for treatment.


Our admissions counselors will guide you or your loved one through the admissions process and treatment options. Assessments are always free and 100% confidential.