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Drug paraphernalia is an umbrella term for any equipment used to produce, conceal, and/ or consume illegal drugs.
Although federal law prohibits the sale of drug paraphernalia, it is not difficult to purchase in the US. Depending on the type of paraphernalia, teens are able to buy drug paraphernalia at gift and novelty shops, gas stations, head shops, convenience stores, tobacco shops, and on the Internet. While there are certain types of paraphernalia that are used with several different illicit drugs, there are some items that are specific-to-specific substances. Marijuana, cocaine and heroin all have some paraphernalia items that overlap, but others that are commonly only found with use of that, respective, drug.
There are a number of paraphernalia items that are used by teens when ingesting marijuana. They can include, but are not limited to, the following examples:
- Bongs: water pipes used to filter marijuana through water and then used to smoke
- Pipes: used to smoke marijuana
- Roach clips: holding onto a joint or blunt that has become too short to hold with one’s fingers
- E-cigarettes: marijuana cartridges are available to be vaped out of an electronic cigarette
- Lighters: used to light pipes, and marijuana cigarettes
- Cigars: commonly hollowed out to be fill with marijuana and smoked; known as blunts
- Rolling papers: used to roll marijuana and create a joint to be smoked
With the exception of e-cigarettes, marijuana has a relatively potent smell. Should you find any of the above items in your child’s belongings you will likely be able to tell if they are being used for the purposes of ingesting marijuana.
Paraphernalia that is most commonly associated with cocaine use include the following items:
- Razor blades: used to crush and cut up cocaine into lines to snort
- Playing cards: used as a smooth surface to create lines of powdered cocaine
- Mirrors: used as a smooth surface to create lines of powdered cocaine
- Short, plastic straws: used to snort cocaine
- Rolled up paper: used to snort cocaine
- Small spoons: used to bring drugs up to nose to snort cocaine
- Pipes: used to smoke cocaine
The items associated with cocaine use can be a bit trickier to distinguish between beings in relation to the use of drug paraphernalia or used for legitimate purposes. When in doubt, ask.
Heroin can be ingested in a number of ways, most dangerously being intravenously. The items that may be found on a teenager using heroin may include the following examples:
- Needles: used to inject heroin
- Syringes: used to inject heroin
- Tin foil: used to smoke heroin
- Plastic pen case: used to snort heroin
- Cut up plastic straw: used to snort heroin
- Small spoon: used to mix and liquefy heroin
- Rubber tubing: used to tie off an area of body to create vein bulging
- Lighters: used to heat up the spoon enabling the heroin to liquefy
Alone, some of the above examples may seem innocent and quite possibly used for reasons other than relating to drugs. Bear in mind that many of the items can be used for legitimate purposes. Additionally, finding drug paraphernalia is not unequivocal evidence of drug use. On the other hand, finding drug paraphernalia amongst your teenager’s belongings may indicate drug use, and at the very least warrants a conversation.
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Today Heroin Epidemic.” Atlanta, Georgia; updated July 7, 2017.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (n.d.). FAQs: Marijuana and Methods of Use.
- Koopman Gonzalez, S. J., Cofie, L. E., & Trapl, E. S. (2015). “I just use it for weed”: The modification of little cigars and cigarillos by young adult African American male users. Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 16(1), 66–79.
- National Drug Intelligence Center. (n.d.). Drug Paraphernalia: Fast Fact
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Marijuana (Weed, Pot) Facts.