Drug use can be hidden in plain sight with drug paraphernalia. Teens use homemade or purchased paraphernalia to produce, consume or transport drugs.

Teen drug use is a reality in nearly every community. Parents and responsible adults do what they can to keep kids from trying drugs. However, spotting teen drug use can sometimes be difficult.

Drug use can be hidden in plain sight with drug paraphernalia. Teens use many easily obtained items to consume or transport drugs. This paraphernalia can be homemade or purchased at a low cost. Teen drug abuse can develop very quickly if the red flags are missed. If you know what to look for, you can intervene early and get your teen back on a healthier safer path. 

What Is Drug Paraphernalia?

According to a resource published by the National Drug Intelligence Center, drug paraphernalia is any item used to produce, conceal or consume illicit substances. These items may also be used to store or transport drugs. Drug paraphernalia includes basic household products and specialized equipment.

For example, a person injecting meth or heroin would need a heat source to cook the drugs with. They would also need something to cook the drugs in, a way to tie off an arm or leg to make injection easier, and a way to inject the drug. The paraphernalia for this scenario could include spoons, pieces of burnt foil, a lighter, rubber tubing cotton balls and needles. The spoons, foil, lighter and cotton balls could all be found around a home. A teen would only need to find a source for the needle and rubber tubing.

Adults can sometimes have problems identifying what drug paraphernalia actually is. Some of these items are quite common to most households, such as lighters and aluminum foil. Specialty pipes can be marketed for a legitimate activity like tobacco use. Misleading labels conceal the true purpose, which is for smoking marijuana or heroin.

Paraphernalia is fairly easy for teens to obtain. Many specialty products can be ordered online or through catalogs. These products are also sold in novelty stores, tobacco stores and convenience stores. The manufacturers use trendy shapes, designs and colors to attract young adults and teens according to the National Drug Intelligence Center. Some paraphernalia can look like trinkets or souvenirs.

Types of Drug Paraphernalia

Homemade drug paraphernalia is made from objects most teens have in their homes. While not all items can be made from scratch, most are. For example, drug paraphernalia can include kitchen accessories and personal care items from the bathroom. These items are all too easy to access for most teenagers at no to little cost.

Bent and Burnt Spoons

Drugs like crystal meth, heroin and crack cocaine are combined with water and cooked before being injected. A flame lit under a kitchen spoon provides enough direct heat to cook down the water and drug together.

Rolled Dollar Bills and Straws

Rolled dollar bills or small straws are used to snort small finely powdered lines of drugs directly into the nose. Heroin, meth and cocaine are all commonly consumed this way.


Lighters are used to cook down powdered drugs into a liquid that can be injected. Lighters are also commonly used to light marijuana joints or to ignite heroin pipes for smoking.

Razor Blades and Mirrors

Finely powdered drugs like cocaine or meth are often snorted. A tiny amount of the drug is poured onto a small mirror. The mirror’s smooth surface makes it easy to create separate lines of the drug. Each line is then snorted one at a time into the nose with a rolled dollar bill or small straw.

Small Baggies

Small baggies are often used to store and transport tiny amounts of drugs like marijuana, prescription pills or heroin. It’s not unusual for teens to cut off small corners of baggies and tie or tape off the edges. This creates even smaller less detectable baggies.


A sploof is a homemade tool that acts as a filter for marijuana smoke. According to an article on PowertotheParent.org, a program of the Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth, a sploof can be made with a cardboard tube and dryer sheets. Some commercially made sploofs are available in stores and online.

Other Signs of Drug Use in Teens

According to an article in Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, one of the earliest signs of potential drug use is a sudden change of friends. If a teen is being introduced to substances, the new social group will draw them in quickly. When their parents show disapproval or concern, the teen may give excuses and get angry when confronted about their behavior.

Other negative behavior changes can be red flags for possible teen drug use. Parents should take note of any changes that happen in a short amount of time or seem out of character for their child.

Changes in Social Behavior

  • Refusal to participate in family social time
  • Refusal to do expected chores or other responsibilities
  • Staying isolating in their bedroom

Changes in Personality

  • Lying or offering strange stories to explain absences, paraphernalia, odd or concerning behavior
  • Secretive behavior
  • Disrespectful behavior, violating curfew

Lack of Motivation

  • Inappropriate clothing, wearing dirty clothing
  • Little concern for appearance or personal hygiene 
  • Grades dropping or getting fired from their job
  • Signs of depression, low or unstable mood

Signs of Impairment and Intoxication

  • Appearing drowsy, stumbling or looking uncoordinated
  • Slurred or incoherent speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Breath smells like alcohol, the odor of marijuana on clothing, other odd odors

Does My Teen Need Help?

As a parent, your child’s safety is a top priority. If you have concerns about your teen using drugs, the next question is about how you can help your child. Take the list of warning signs as a guide for learning more about your child’s potential situation. If your teen shows one or two red flags, it does not necessarily mean your teen is using drugs. Be cautious and vigilant, but avoid jumping to conclusions.

Some behavior changes are typical of teens going through natural adjustments in their lives. It’s still a good idea to talk to your teen about what you have noticed in a non-accusatory way. The support you give can strengthen your bond and develop trust. But if you discover more red flags for possible drug use, you may need to seek professional help.

If your child has tried a small amount of marijuana or alcohol once or twice, you may be able to intervene on your own. Monitor your child’s activities closely and encourage your child to talk about those situations. You can understand your child’s choices and learn what they need most from you. 

However, you may discover that the situation is beyond what you can handle alone. If the behavior changes are significant or you notice several signs of possible drug use, get help from a doctor or counselor right away. You may feel like getting help means you are a bad parent. Instead, it means that you will do whatever is needed to make your teen safe and healthy.

Ask Questions about Teen Drug Paraphernalia Today

Drug paraphernalia can be giveaways for teen drug use as well. Don’t overlook common items like cotton balls, small baggies and burnt aluminum foil. Even small signs can potentially point to major drug challenges.

If you have concerns or questions about teen drug paraphernalia or other signs of drug use, contact The Recovery Village today. The professional staff is available to take your call 24 hours a day. Your conversation is private and confidential. Contact us at The Recovery Village now to get help for your teen.

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Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Erika Krull, LMHP
Erika Krull has a master’s degree in mental health counseling and has been a freelance writer since 2006. Read more

Ali, Shahid, et al. “Early Detection of Illicit Drug Use in Teenagers.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, December 8, 2011. Accessed August 4, 2019.

NDIC. “Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts.” Accessed August 4, 2019.

PowertotheParent.org. “Hidden in Plain Sight.” Accessed August 4, 2019.



Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.