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How to Spot Crack Cocaine (Drug) Paraphernalia?

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Drug abuse is always a concern during adolescent years. Experimentation with these illicit substances can quickly lead to abuse, dependency and a graduation to harder, more addictive drugs. Unfortunately, abusing crack cocaine – a smokable form of cocaine – is a common result of initial experimentation with power cocaine.

While both forms of cocaine are incredibly addictive, crack is generally cheaper and produces a more intense, dangerous high.

5 Common Pieces of Crack Paraphernalia

If you’re concerned your teen may be abusing crack, you’ll want to learn about the following five pieces of paraphernalia traditionally associated with crack cocaine, such as what a crack pipe or “stem” looks like.

      • Light Bulbs and Crack Pipe:
        Crack does not light on its own (like marijuana or hash); it must be slowly heated to burn. While a crack user may use a traditional glass pipe, light bulbs are an incredibly popular, make-shift device for smoking crack. Users remove the bulb’s inner workers, place the crack inside the bulb, and light the outside of the glass. If you find a bulb with burn marks or empty light bulbs, it’s important to intervene quickly.

      • Steel Wool, Faucet Aerators and Chore Boy:
        When someone does use a traditional pipe (or stem), they require a filter to keep the crack in place. Placing steel wool or copper Chore Boy, both scrubbing materials, inside the pipe is the most common method to do so. Faucet aerators are the screens obtained by screwing off the end of older faucets. These are also commonly used as screens for smoking crack.
      • Tin Foil and Straws
        Known as freebasing, using tin foil and a straw (or a hollow pen) is probably the second-most common method for smoking crack. Users make a crease in the foil, heat the crack from underneath, and use a straw to inhale the smoke. Finding balled up pieces of tin foil or tin foil with yellowish-brown or black burn markings may indicate your teen is using crack.
      • Aluminum Cans
        Another home-made, make-shift device, aluminum cans are also common. A user indents a side of the can, makes pin-sized holes in the indentation, places a screen over the holes, and lights the crack on the screen. While finding a can in this form may indicate smoking other types of drugs (marijuana, hash, etc.), it’s no less a reason to initiate a conversation. While marijuana and hash produce very poignant smells, crack’s smell is more-subtle yet still identifiable. Many describe it has burning plastic or cat pee.
      • Glass Pipes and Stems:
        While using a glass pipe or bong is common, “stems” are the preferred type of smoking device for crack. These are either straight, hollow glass tubes or glass tubes with a rounded, bulbous end. After prolonged use, the stem will have brown smoke residue inside and black burn marks on the outside end used for lighting the crack. If you find a stem, it’s crucial to confront your child and quickly make arrangements for treatment.

Learn more about treatment options for crack addiction and what your family can expect from the recovery process.

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The editorial staff of Projectknow.com is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands of pages for accuracy and relevance. Our reviewers consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA, NIDA, and other reputable sources to provide our readers the most accurate content on the web.
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