What Is Paraphernalia?
Legally, paraphernalia is defined as any equipment, product or material intended or designed for producing, selling, hiding and consuming controlled substances. Each illicit drug has a different type of paraphernalia commonly associated with it. Some common items are pipes, spoons, needles, bongs and rolling papers.
Is Paraphernalia Illegal?
Your child could get into serious legal trouble if the authorities find them with drug paraphernalia, even if they are not in possession of or have not used an illicit drug. Drug paraphernalia is illegal and possession of such items is a criminal charge that will usually result in penalties like fines and jail time. Although possession charges are typically classified as misdemeanors, the penalties can be amplified based on circumstances (e.g. if the person charged has been charged for possession in a school zone or if they’ve been charged with possession before).
Drug charges can stick to a person’s criminal record and can make it difficult to find employment. Make sure you warn your teens about the dangers of driving in cars and hanging with friends who use drugs.
How Do Teens Use Drugs?
If you suspect your child may be using drugs — maybe they are exhibiting common signs of addiction like changes in appearance, worsening health, suspicious behavior and suddenly performing poorly in school — it may be time to look around for drug paraphernalia in their personal spaces, such as their bedroom, car, backpack or purse.
Each drug is consumed in different ways, but there are commonly-used paraphernalia you can look for.
Sometimes it can be difficult to spot paraphernalia because many are designed to look like items that can be used for legitimate purposes, and some actually are items used for legitimate purposes. You may be able to tell if your teen is using these items to get high if there are large quantities of the item in their room or the trash, or if the items have a strong odor of illicit drugs.
Paraphernalia Linked to Alcohol Abuse
- Bottles and cans of alcohol
- Drinking vessels like water bottles, flasks and coffee cups
- Cocktail shakers, shot glasses and other barware
Paraphernalia Linked to Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana Abuse
- Rolling papers
- Pipes made from metal, wood, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic
- Roach clips, a metal holder for a marijuana cigarette or joint
Paraphernalia Linked to Cocaine Abuse
- Spoons, typically with burn marks on the bottom
- Small mirrors
- Plastic straws, rolled-up paper tubes or rolled-up dollar bills
- Razor blades
Paraphernalia Linked to Heroin Abuse
- Needles and syringes
- Tin foil
- Plastic pen case
- Drinking straw
- Spoons, typically with burn marks on the bottom
Paraphernalia Linked to LSD Abuse
- Sugar cubes
- Blotter paper decorated with art or designs, similar in size and look to postage stamps
- Eyedropper bottles
Paraphernalia Linked to Ecstasy Abuse
- Glow sticks
- Surgical or dust masks
- Bags of candy
Paraphernalia Linked to Inhalant Abuse
- Tubes of glue
- Bottles or aerosol cans with hardened glue, sprays, pain or chemical odors
Where Do Teens Hide Their Drugs?
If your child is using drugs, they may be hiding them in plain sight. A teenager’s personal spaces are the bedroom, bathroom, car, backpack and purse. Take a quick look around some of these spaces. If nothing turns up, but you suspect your child is using drugs, give some seemingly ordinary household items a closer look. Drug users are regularly inventing new ways to conceal illicit drugs and paraphernalia in unsuspecting places.
Some common places you might find drugs hiding are:
- Writing Utensils – These can be used for storage as well as consumption. For example, the back of a highlighter can be removed and drugs can be hidden inside, or the empty highlighter can be used as a pipe.
- Cans and Wrappers – These are often not moved, drank/eaten or thrown away. A closer look may reveal what looks like a can of soda actually has a top that unscrews to hide drugs, money and paraphernalia.
- Personal Hygiene and Makeup Containers – These items can be emptied, hollowed out and used to store drugs, particularly alcohol. Makeup mirrors can be used for snorting drugs like cocaine.
- Candy Containers – Every kid loves sweets, but if they won’t share their mints or candy with you and are never without the container, it could be because there are pills or drugs inside.
- Belt Buckles – Flip over the buckle and take a look at the back — if it slides off, there’s a chance your teen could be using this as a secret hiding place for pills or powder.
- Posters and Picture Frames – Abusers sometimes flatten their drugs or paraphernalia and tape them to the back of wall hangings where unsuspecting parents may never look.
- Books – Thick books are prime candidates for cutting out pages to create a secret compartment. From the outside, the book may look ordinary, but when opened a chamber may have been cut out, glued together and used to hide paraphernalia, money and drugs.
- Mattresses – If you ever notice your teen’s mattress is exposed or hanging off the bed frame, it may be because they’ve cut a hole and are using it to store their stash.
- Toys – As a parent, you may view a childhood toy as a sentimental item, but your teenager may view it as the perfect place to cut a hole and stash illicit goods. It should be a red flag if they insist on taking the toy to school, sleepovers or visits to a friend’s house.
- Cars – Check under the hood, behind the dashboard and below the seats for paraphernalia or tea bags filled with drugs that may be taped to those surfaces.
You may also notice some items laying around your teen’s room or car that are consistently used to cover up drug use. Those items include eye drops and sunglasses to conceal bloodshot eyes, and perfume or body sprays, mouthwash, mints and breath sprays to conceal harsh odors that come from drug use.
Where Do Teens Buy Paraphernalia?
Drug paraphernalia, like most other things in the modern world, is frequently bought online. Some items are also available at brick and mortar locations like tobacco shops, head shops, novelty stores, gift shops and gas stations.
A head shop is a store mostly dedicated to selling drug paraphernalia, particularly items to smoke marijuana with. Although selling drug paraphernalia is illegal, these types of stores are legal because the items are advertised for use with tobacco only. Most people who walk by these shops know the facade is a ruse though — the merchandise is often decorated with marijuana leaves and pop culture symbols and references having to do with drug consumption. Items like pipes and bongs (which are often labeled as water pipes in these stores) are designed in bright colors with fun designs to appeal to young adults.
Online shopping is also popular with drug users because it offers them a fast and easy way to privately buy paraphernalia. There are a variety of websites solely dedicated to selling these items, but some merchants have also begun to sell these items on sites created for another purpose. For example, Etsy, the popular online marketplace for crafting and DIY, has seen an uptick in merchants selling handcrafted pipes, bongs and other items on the site.
Does Your Child Need Addiction Treatment?
If you discover drug paraphernalia in your child’s bedroom, car or backpack, they may have a drug problem. It can be tough to come to grips with this, so don’t be afraid to turn to friends and family for moral support. Understand that this isn’t your fault, and it isn’t your teen’s fault — no matter how strong addiction stigma may be.
Additionally, you do need to contact a professional who can advise you about the issue. Make an appointment to speak with your family doctor, your teen’s school guidance counselor, or call TeenRehabCenter.org. Our addiction advisors can assess your summarization of the situation, and give you advice regarding next steps.
If it turns out that your child is dealing with addiction, treatment will be necessary. We at TeenRehabCenter.org are here for you, and our help is always free. If you need help finding potential treatment options, such as inpatient or outpatient drug rehab. We can also offer advice on choosing the rehab program that will work best for your child. Addiction doesn’t wait to act — why should you? Call today for a free conversation with a compassionate addiction advisor. Your child is worth it.
- “Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts.” U.S. Department of Justice. U.S. Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- Clarke, Peter. “Possession of Paraphernalia | LegalMatch Law Library.” Find a Lawyer | Find an Attorney – Present Your Case to LegalMatch. LegalMatch, 17 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- Shillinglaw, Greg. “Legal Smoke Shops Flourish As Pot Use Grows.” USA TODAY. USA TODAY, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
- LeBlanc, Lacy. “Etsy’s Adorable, Handmade Drug Paraphernalia.” The Fix. The Fix, 14 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.
- Ballard, Susanne. “Would You Know if Your Teens Were Abusing Drugs?” Stop Medicine Abuse. Consumer Healthcare Products Association, 3 Apr. 2012. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
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