Drug Paraphernalia: What to Look Out for

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Possession of drug paraphernalia can be a sign that someone in your life has been engaging in a dangerous, potentially life-threatening behavior. When you know what to look out for, you will be better prepared to keep your loved one safe and connect them with the help they need.

About Drug Paraphernalia

The category of drug paraphernalia can be separated into two sub-categories:

  • Devices that were intentionally designed for substance abuse
  • Common items that have been adapted for this purpose

If you suspect that someone you know has been engaging in surreptitious substance use, you may also want to keep an eye out for items that may be used to hide or erase evidence of this behavior. Examples can include mouthwash, mints, eye drops, incense, and air fresheners. 

Since these items aren’t used to administer, consume, or store substances, they don’t technically fall under the definition of drug paraphernalia – but someone who suddenly begins to use them for no apparent reason could be doing so in order to conceal what they’ve been up to.

What Common Items are Used as Drug Paraphernalia?

Here are examples of drug paraphernalia that were specifically designed for substance use:

  • Rolling papers
  • Pipes, bongs, and hookahs
  • Vaporizers (vapes)
  • Syringes and hypodermic needles
  • Some storage devices

And here are some of the many common household items that are often modified to serve as drug paraphernalia:

  • Spoons
  • Tin foil
  • Cotton balls
  • Matches and lighters
  • Rubber tubing
  • Bandanas
  • Belts
  • Straws
  • Razor blades
  • Nail clippers
  • Paper clips
  • Small mirrors
  • Rags
  • Aerosol cans
  • Plastic baggies
  • Glass tubes
  • Balloons

What Should You Do if You Find Drug Paraphernalia? 

When you find drug paraphernalia, the ideal response can depend on the nature of your relationship with the person who was in possession of the object or objects. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Do your best to confirm that the item or items that you discovered are actually drug paraphernalia. One way to do this is to see if your loved one has multiple items that would commonly be used together. For example, if you find a bent spoon, cotton balls, syringes, and rubber tubing, this could be evidence that your loved one is using heroin. If, on the other hand, you only find some balloons and a set of nail clippers, they may not be drug-related.
  • If you are able to determine which substance your loved one has been abusing, do some research to educate yourself about the drug and its effects. This can help to confirm your suspicions. For example, if your loved one has drug paraphernalia that can be used to inject heroin, and they have also been exhibiting signs of heroin use, then you can be relatively certain about what they’ve been doing.
  • Talk to your loved one. Depending on your relationship with them, you may want to do this one-on-one or with another person. Don’t overwhelm them by confronting them with a group. Let them know what you found. Emphasize that you care about them and that you are concerned that they are putting themselves in danger. Don’t make accusations or issue ultimatums, and do your best to prevent the discussion from turning into an argument.
  • Listen to your loved one. Their willingness or hesitancy to discuss their substance use can give you valuable insights into their state of mind. They may readily admit that they have a problem, or they may refuse to discuss the matter at all. You should be prepared for pushback, denial, or even hostility – but it is extremely important to let your loved one know that you are willing to listen to them.
  • Explore treatment options if necessary. If it turns out that your loved one has developed a substance use disorder (addiction), they may need professional care to help them end their drug use and achieve lasting recovery. Your conversations with them can help you understand the scope of their problem and determine if they are open to the idea of getting help. If they are, you can help them find the right place, accompany them to their intake appointment, and learn how to support them during and after their time in treatment.
  • If the person is a family member, make sure that the other members of your immediate family know what’s going on. If your family includes children or teens, find an age-appropriate way to discuss your loved one’s struggles with substance abuse. Drug abuse and addiction can impact entire families, so it is important to address this matter with everyone in your household. You may also want to consider family therapy, couples counseling, or another form of professional help for yourself and others who may have been affected by your loved one’s substance abuse.

Treatment Options for Your Loved One

Personalization can be an integral component of effective addiction treatment. A program that is ideal for one person may be inadequate for someone else. This is why it is so important to find a provider who will assess your loved one’s needs, then put together a customized plan just for them.

One of the first treatment-related decisions often involves determining which level or levels of care are right for the patient:

Next, a reputable treatment provider will select the therapies and services that align most closely with the patient’s needs and goals. Options may include:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy 
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • EMDR and other types of trauma therapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Holistic services

Finally, before the patient transitions out of treatment, their provider should develop a personalized discharge plan for them. This plan may include information about professional services and community-based resources that can help them resist relapse and remain in recovery.

Contact our Drug Treatment Center at Renewal Health Group Today

Renewal Health Group is a family of addiction treatment centers in southern California. Our facilities are safe and welcoming places where adults receive evidence-based services and personalized guidance, with the goal of empowering them to end their substance use and establish a solid foothold in early recovery.

We understand that every person who becomes addicted to alcohol or another drug is impacted in a different way, and we are committed to providing a truly personalized treatment experience for each patient who chooses to heal with us. With our full continuum of care, customizable array of therapies and support services, and team of highly skilled professionals, we are prepared to identify and address the full scope of each patient’s unique needs.

To learn more about how we can help your loved one, or to schedule a free assessment for them, please visit our Contact page or call us today.

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