Why Families Need to be Educated on Drug Paraphernalia

Whether you’re suspecting that a loved one has a drug addiction or is relapsing, knowing the signs and symptoms of abuse are critical. We often know the obvious signs to look for, but some signs of abuse are more subtle. For instance, college students who abuse Adderall may be more focused and getting better grades than before. Also, in the early stages of abuse, some people are good at hiding their habit or making believable excuses (i.e., “I have everything under control.”) That’s why it’s important that you also know what types of drug paraphernalia to look for if you suspect a problem.

Drug Paraphernalia is Not Always Obvious

If you were to ask most people what they would look for in terms of paraphernalia, most would say the obvious choices such as needles, a pipe or lighters. Unfortunately, drug paraphernalia is often much more difficult to spot. Not only are addicts good at concealing their evidence but also there are many ways to use a drug. Even more unsettling is that there are many everyday items that can be used in addiction that would never stand out, such as plates, razor blades or water bottles.

In addition to these inconspicuous items, you must also ask yourself if you would know what to look for. When we meet with families at The River Source, some admit that the drugs were right in front of them all along and they never knew it. Prescription drug addiction is especially hard to spot; would you really be able to tell that a handful of pills were the source of the addiction?

The best thing you can do early on is to educate yourself. Know what to look for and where to find it. Even though searching for drugs is something that is associated with teenage behavior, the truth is that addiction can affect anyone of any age. You may find that you were able to get through the teenage years unscathed, only to learn that your partner may be abusing drugs. Being knowledgeable and paying attention is important for everyone.

Know Where to Look for Drug Paraphernalia

If you do suspect an addiction, consider looking in the following places:

  • Under mattresses
  • Dresser drawers
  • Cabinets
  • Briefcases, backpacks, purses, etc.
  • Closets
  • Inside computers
  • Speaker systems
  • Vehicles
  • Shoes
  • CD/DVD storage cases
  • Drop ceilings
  • Hollowed out candles

Know the Types of Drug Paraphernalia

In addition to popular hiding places, know what types of paraphernalia are out there.

Inhaled Drugs

  • Small mirrors, razor blades, small spoons, straws, rolled up dollar bills

Injectable Drugs

  • Needles, syringes, medical tubing, spoons, Bunsen burners


  • Rolling papers, lighters, and matches, small bags, glass pipes (can look like souvenirs)


  • Balloons, nozzles, rags dipped in chemicals, bottles/cans with inhalant residue

MDMA, Ecstasy, and Molly

  • Pacifiers, lollipops, glow sticks, Vicks

What Happens if I Find Something?

Now, if you do happen to find something, you must prepare to know what to do with it. If you find pills, you can look up the pills on a pill identification site such as on webmd.com. Enter in the imprint, color, and shape of the pill to determine if it’s a legit medication. If it is, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the clear. Drugs like Ritalin, Adderall, Xanax or Vicodin are only safe when used under the care of a doctor. Find out more about the drug to determine if it’s the source of your loved one’s addiction.

If you can’t find what the pill is, it may be illegal. If your loved one is using these drugs and hiding them, you know that the problem is already out of control. Don’t wait; stage an intervention or contact a treatment center like The River Source that will answer your questions and offer professional guidance.

Is it Right to Snoop?

Each family is unique, and it can be difficult for some people to look through their loved one’s belongings. Parents have a hard enough time with this, let alone having to snoop through your husband or wife’s belongings. However, if you have reason to believe that your loved one has an addiction, confirming your suspicions is necessary. This may seem demeaning, but it’s up to the family to provide the tough love that is needed to get through addiction. It’s the most trusting family members that are the easiest to fool.

Addicts don’t choose to be addicts, which means their families get forced down this path. The best thing you can do is keep a level head whether you’re raising a teen, married to a recovered alcoholic or giving pain medication to a parent. Addiction is not limited to the young, and it can evolve over time. By knowing what types of drug paraphernalia are out there, you can support your suspicions and provide your loved one with the help that is needed.

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