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Tools of the Trade: How to Spot Cocaine Paraphernalia

Many parents don’t like (or want) to play the role of family policeman – snooping, interrogating and punishing their teenagers. However, as parents, it is our job to protect and serve.

If you believe your teen might be using cocaine, it’s your job as a parent (not a cop) to intervene. After all, we’re talking about a drug that can cause severe psychological and physical effects, especially after prolonged use. And none of us want a future like that for our children.

Walking Your Beat

To intervene, you first need to know what to look for. While white residue is a pretty obvious sign of cocaine use, other paraphernalia can be a little trickier to spot. Here’s a look at those red flag items:

  • Dollar Bills and Hollow PensRolled-up dollar bills and hollow pens are both common pieces of paraphernalia. If your teen is sniffing cocaine, residue can normally be found on either delivery device. Also, other parts of a dissembled pen may be a sign of use. While your teenager may be careful to conceal the hollow tube, he may careless with discarding the tips or the ink cartridges. And remember, a rolled-up bill doesn’t automatically unroll after use. In other words, a loosely curved bill left on a table may be red flag for cocaine use.
  • Snuff BulletsA small device traditionally used for tobacco snuff (in the 19th century), “snuff bullets” are almost exclusively used today as a way to snort cocaine and other drugs. They are small plastic, acrylic or metal cylinder devices that deliver portioned cocaine (a bump) to the user. They feature a screw-on bottom for filling the bullet and a lever-like device on the side for portioning the powder out.

Cocaine on a mirror

  • CD Cases and Small Mirrors Other obvious and extremely common pieces of paraphernalia, CD cases and small mirrors are used to snort cocaine, namely by serving as a tray or plate where teens cut out lines of the drug. Even if he wipes the surface clean, residue can typically be found between the glass and the frame of a mirror. Also, if he’s using razor blades to cut lines, the glass may also feature scratches.
  • Strange JewelrySecret compartment jewelry is also something to consider. The jewelry is designed to be discreet, but as a parent, you have an idea of your teen’s fashion sense. In reality, jewelry designed to carry and conceal cocaine is anything but discreet. The pieces of jewelry are usually bulky and altogether unfashionable. In other words, if your child starts wearing strange lockets or bulky rings, they might be cocaine compartments – not questionable fashion statements.
  • Baggies and BindlesCocaine is typically packaged in small, re-sealable bags or tied with the cut, triangular corners of a larger plastic bag. However, you should also keep a look out for paper folded into a “bindle,” an origami-like method that uses paper (or dollar bills) as cocaine packaging. If you see papers with multiple creases in a strange design, they may have been bindles.
  • Razor Blades and Plastic Cards Both of these items are used for chopping and crushing rocky cocaine into a fine powder, making it easier to snort. While one loose plastic card may not be cause for concern, important cards – especially bank cards and IDs – aren’t typically left lying around. Also, there’s no reason your teen should own razorblades. If you spot blades or loose plastic cards in his room or car – and you notice a white residue on them – it’s time to talk about cocaine use.