Do You Know What Drug Paraphernalia to Look For?

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Sometimes it might be obvious if something is drug paraphernalia, like a pipe. Other times it can be difficult if a person has had little exposure to drugs or drug education. Finding drug paraphernalia can be the first sign that your loved one is using drugs. The user may hide important things (like needles/pipes), but may accidentally leave other less important things out. Spotting these clues can mean life or death for your loved one. If you find paraphernalia, it should not be ignored, but rather brought up with your loved one. Enabling addicts often kills them, so warning signs should always be taken very seriously.


Often, drug users have so many baggies they lose track of them all. They might leave them on counters, under beds, or on top of the trash. Obviously, just a bag does not mean it is drug paraphernalia. It takes more examination to cause suspicions.

Very small ziplock bags are most commonly used for drugs. Finding miniature ziplock bags should cause suspicion. If the bag smells like marijuana (similar to a skunk), then it almost definitely was a marijuana bag. Powdery residue is also a sure sign that something is not normal. Another sign would be finding pieces of plastic bags. Often, dealers will rip the corner off of a bag to store drugs in. If you find a powdery ripped piece of a bag this should be a red flag. This is usually cocaine or heroin.


Stamps refer to a type of method of selling heroin. It is a folded up piece of paper that usually has a stamp on one side. This stamp is usually a random symbol (a flame, Nike logo, a gun). The symbol can be anything. These symbols are used to differentiate dealers to establish their own brand. Finding these bags should be very concerning, especially finding many of them. Often they will also have powdery residue and may smell like vinegar.


Spoons are often used to “cook” drugs prior to injection. Spoons also require further examination because it is a common household object. Spoons with a black burn mark on the bottom almost certainly means it is drug paraphernalia. Spoons that are bent are also suspicious. Users will bend spoons so they can sit upright.


Users will often use cotton to filter a drug before injection. Finding very small, rolled up pieces of cotton should be suspicious. If a person is using IV drugs they often accidentally leave these around. Cotton alone does not mean it is drug paraphernalia, but small, wet, and brown pieces probably does.

drug paraphernalia


Glass pipes are common for many different types of drugs. Though they could be used for tobacco, this is not common. Marijuana pipes will smell very strong and have a thick black residue. Popular marijuana pipes are usually small and colorful.

A stem is a type of pipe used to smoke crack or meth. These are often straight clear glass tubes or a tube with a “bulb” on the end. Stems cannot be used for anything else so it should be a bad sign to find these kinds of drug paraphernalia.

With stems, users often use sticks to push screens into the pipe. Finding wooden sticks or paper clips and small brass screens should also be a warning sign.


If a user cannot get access to proper drug paraphernalia, they often will make their own. Cans and tin foil can be used to smoke several types of drugs. Foil is often used to smoke pills or heroin. Foil that has been used to drugs will have black lines, residue, and burn marks. Cans can be used to smoke marijuana or even crack. Cans will often have holes poked in them and will have burn marks.

Water or soda bottles can be used to smoke meth, crack, or marijuana. The bottle will have residue, burns marks, and holes poked in the sides. Sometimes a pen or plastic tube will be sticking out of the side.


Straws are used to snort any powdery drug. They are usually clipped to be a couple inches in length to make it easier to snort drugs. Finding straws like these should definitely be a warning sign, especially if they contain white powdery residue.

Look for nearby mirrors or glass surfaces. It is common for users to snort powdery drugs off of glass. If you see powder on a nearby glass surface, this should bring even greater concern.


Finding syringes should be extremely alarming. If a person is not diabetic there should be no reason to have syringes. Syringes are common drug paraphernalia used to inject cocaine, meth, or heroin. It will likely be worn-out and used. Drug users often will save their syringes to re-use. Syringes are meant for one-time use only, so if a syringe is dull and old looking it almost certainly is being used to inject drugs.

Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction

Getting clean and sober from drugs and alcohol is the most important thing that an addict or alcoholic can do in their life. At Pinnacle Recovery, we understand this and we are here to help you through the anxiety that going to a treatment center for drugs and alcohol can bring. With help from our professionals, you can find a new life in sobriety with the least amount of resistance possible, and you can learn what it means to achieve a sustained and happy recovery. So call us today at 1-866-301-0573 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Pinnacle Recovery.

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