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Common Drug Paraphernalia

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

January 23, 2019

Abuse of certain drugs may require specific tools or supplies called Paraphernalia. The exact items used vary from drug to drug and are also dependent on the method of abuse. It can be difficult to detect certain signs of drug abuse and addiction because these objects can be common, everyday items. For this reason, learning about drug paraphernalia can make it easier to spot signs of abuse in a loved one.

What Is Paraphernalia?

Most drugs cannot be abused on their own. For a person abusing drugs to achieve a high or euphoric state, they typically administer the drug in a way which allows it to affect their body and brain as quickly as possible.

To do this, drugs may be altered in form or loaded into an apparatus for administration. Paraphernalia refers to any item used to produce, prepare, administer, store, transport, or hide drugs.

Common Types Of Paraphernalia

Paraphernalia varies according to the drug and method of abuse. Equipment may be used to store drugs, transport or hide the drugs, weigh them (for drug dealing), and some paraphernalia may be used to hide signs of drug use. The following are the most common types of drug paraphernalia used for these purposes.

Kits: When a drug requires numerous types of paraphernalia, the user often carries these items in a kit or bag, which he or she then hides. This may be a small tote or case. Common hiding spots include backpacks, purses, bedrooms (under the bed or in the closet), or in a vehicle.

Transportation or storage: Drugs are commonly stored in plastic baggies, balloons, film canisters, foil, or other small containers (such as Altoids tins or old prescription pill bottles).

Scales: Many drugs of abuse are weighed prior to an individual selling or purchasing them. While metal hand scales are still used, many users now rely on digital, portable scales.

Other: Drug abuse often leaves telltale physical cues. Certain methods are used to cover these signs. Examples include:

  • Body spray, cologne, perfume, and mints or gum are used to cover up the smell of the drug.
  • Eye drops are used to reduce the appearance of bloodshot eyes.
  • Sunglasses are worn to cover up dilated or pinpoint pupils and/or bloodshot or rapidly moving eyes.

Equipment: Drugs are typically abused orally or by smoking, snorting, or injecting them.

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Signs Of Intravenous Drug Use (Injecting Drugs)

Drugs abused by injection are inserted into the skin (subcutaneous), muscle tissue directly below the skin (intramuscular), or directly into the bloodstream (intravenous). Injection is a rapid method of drug abuse, causing an immediate rush of effects. The following paraphernalia are associated with abuse of drugs by injection:

  • Razor: Used to cut or crush the drug prior to dissolving it for injection
  • Acidic substances (lemon juice, citric acid, or Vitamin C): Certain drugs must be mixed with an acid before they can dissolve.
  • Spoon: Used to heat and liquefy the drug.
  • Filter: A cigarette filter, cotton ball, or other material may be used to strain the drug.
  • Rubbing alcohol or alcohol swabs: Used to sterilize the injection site.
  • Needles or syringes: Insulin needles are commonly used for this purpose.
  • Tourniquet: This is used to “tie off” the area of injection (commonly the arm), so that blood flow temporarily stops. Examples include rubber tubing, belts, or various types of straps.

Signs Of Drug Use (Snorting Drugs)

Snorting drugs involves inhaling a drug—usually a crushed pill or powder substance—through the nose. Snorting is a rapid method of administration, as the drug bypasses the digestive system and is delivered directly to the bloodstream. The following may serve as paraphernalia for snorting drugs:

  • Razors and/or credit or gift cards: Used to crush, cut, and separate the drug into lines.
  • Mirrors or other hard surfaces: To spread out the lines.
  • Cut off straws, hollowed-out pens, or rolled-up paper or dollar bills (used to snort or inhale the drug).
  • Small spoons: To snort the drug.
  • Small glass vials for transportation and snorting (some have small spoons built into the lid).
  • Jewelry with a snorter or small chamber attached.
  • Powder or residue on any hard surface (books, countertops, or coffee tables).

Common Drugs Of Abuse And Their Paraphernalia

Different drugs will be abused by different methods, meaning paraphernalia signs will also differ from drug to drug. Cocaine in powder form will have different signs of abuse from crack cocaine (a crystal), and both may differ in signs of abuse from heroin, which is often injected, and so on.

The following are commonly abused drugs and the paraphernalia associated with them:


  • Paraphernalia used for snorting or injection: razors, mirrors, spoons, powdery residue

Crack Cocaine

  • Pipes (typically made of metal or glass)
  • Pyrex stems (used as pipes)
  • Cheap plastic roses sold in glass tubes (tubes are used for makeshift pipes)
  • Lighters (butane is often used or cigarette lighters may be modified to make the flame higher)
  • Small torches
  • Scouring pads or steel wool (used as filters for smoking)


  • Ketamine and PCP: These drugs are snorted, smoked, or injected. Paraphernalia will resemble those used for others drugs administered in these ways.
  • LSD: Tablets, small, decorated paper squares, and vials or droppers of clear liquid.
  • Mushrooms (psilocybin): Plastic baggies and/or items used to brew tea.
  • Salvia: Paraphernalia similar to marijuana, as this drug is also smoked and/or brewed as a tea.


  • Burnt foil or pop cans: Used to heat the heroin for smoking
  • Pipes
  • Paraphernalia used for snorting or injection


  • Rags or balloons: Used to absorb or contain certain substances for sniffing and inhalation (“huffing”).
  • Nozzles: Used to inhale these substances

Containers, canisters, or packaging for certain abused substances may be found, such as those used for:

  • degreaser
  • gasoline
  • glue
  • lighter fluid
  • nitrous oxide
  • paint thinner or remover
  • permanent markers
  • spray paint
  • whipped cream aerosol containers

Marijuana (Cannabis)

  • Bongs: Some look like glass vases. These are used to filter and smoke the drug.
  • Cigars: Tobacco is emptied and replaced with marijuana (a “blunt”).
  • Cigarette papers: Rolling papers are used to roll a “joint.”
  • “Dugout”: This small wooden box has two compartments: one which holds the drug and the other which holds a small pipe for smoking.
  • “One-hitter”: This small pipe is contained in a dugout and may also be called a “oney” or “bat.” They are commonly painted white and tan to appear like a cigarette.
  • Pipes: These are commonly glass or metal, but may also be made of acrylic, ceramic, plastic, wood, or stone.
  • Roach clip: A person may use a bobby pin, paperclip, toothpick, tweezers, or other metal clip to hold the small remains of a joint.
  • E-Cigarettes: Marijuana concentrates are loaded into these for smoking.
  • Vaporizers: These machines vaporize marijuana.
  • Prescription containers: Medical marijuana may be dispensed in a plastic container which resembles those containing prescription drugs.
  • Edibles: Marijuana and its extracts are often baked or infused into various types of candy or baked goods.
  • Coffee or teapots which appear to contain substances other than these beverages (people brew marijuana as tea).


  • Paraphernalia used for snorting or injection
  • Pipes for smoking

MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly)

  • Baggies or packs of candy to conceal the drug
  • Glow sticks for visual stimulation
  • Surgical or dust masks
  • Pacifiers or suckers (these drugs cause a person to clench and grind teeth)
  • Paraphernalia used for snorting

Prescription Drugs: Opioid Painkillers, Sedatives, And Stimulants

Prescription drug abuse and paraphernalia associated with it may be more difficult to spot than for other drugs of abuse, as prescriptions often belong to the person abusing the drugs, or a friend or family member. General paraphernalia for abuse of prescription drugs may include:

  • Pill bottles (may have multiple bottles for the same drug from doctor-shopping)
  • Paraphernalia used for snorting or injection
  • Pipes for smoking

Handle Paraphernalia With Care

If a person finds evidence of drug abuse, it’s important to proceed with caution. Handling certain types of paraphernalia can actually be hazardous to a person’s health and safety. Injecting drugs can transmit serious diseases, including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C. For this reason, one should refrain from touching certain paraphernalia, such as needles or syringes.

Also, as the opioid epidemic rises, extremely potent designer opioid drug mixes are hitting the streets. Certain drugs or combinations of drugs can actually cause overdose or death if absorbed through the skin.

Treatment For Drug Addiction

If a person abusing drugs is leaving paraphernalia in plain sight, it is likely they are developing or have developed an addiction. Even if a person has not yet formed an addiction, it’s best to seek treatment for drug abuse before the abuse progresses, especially with dangerous, potent drugs of abuse.

Treatment within inpatient drug rehab centers can provide individuals with access to evidence-based treatment methods, professional, round-the-clock support, and even medication when needed. If someone is struggling with drug abuse, the first step is finding a treatment program that will assess and treat the individual according to their unique needs.

Learn more about signs of drug abuse, addiction treatment, and finding a treatment program.

Get Smart About Drugs - How To Identify Drug Paraphernalia

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Commonly Abused Drug Charts

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