How to Spot Meth Paraphernalia & Possible Signs of Addiction

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Drugs are incredibly strong these days, but few of them are more volatile than the stimulant drug methamphetamine. Created in make-shift “labs,” methamphetamine (crystal, meth, ice, glass, crank) is a Frankenstein-style drug made from the volatile chemicals found in batteries, fertilizer and engine starter. It can be smoked, injected or snorted, and can cause psychosis, strokes, coma and death.

Today’s teens are exposed to meth more than ever before, thanks its acceptance as a cheap “party drug.” Everything about crystal screams “deadly,” so it’s critical to be both educated and aware. If you find any of the following paraphernalia, it’s time to talk to your teen about meth:

Glass and Home-Made Meth Pipes

  • Glass pipes can differ in design, but meth pipes are typically long, glass cylinders with rounded, bulbous ends.
  • A used pipe has black burn marks on the underside of the end.
  • Meth leaves a waxy, yellowish residue in the pipe after being smoked.
  • Light bulbs are a popular make-shift smoking solution. Teens empty the inner working parts and use the bulb as a smoking device. (Light bulbs show the same burn marks and residue.)

Tin Foil and Aluminum Cans


  • Multiple pieces of creased of tin foil can indicate meth abuse. Users place meth in the crease, heat the foil (to evaporate the drug) and inhale the smoke.
  • Similarly, users make indentations in aluminum cans and poke pin-sized holes. They place meth in the indentation and inhale the smoke through the opening of the can.
  • If you find blackened foils or suspicious cans, it’s vital to confront your child.

Cut Straws and Empty Ink Pens

  • Cut straws and empty ink pens are the preferred means of snorting meth.
  • Meth does not easily stick the plastic material, unlike a rolled-up dollar bill or other form of paper.
  • Cut straws and hollowed plastic pens are also popular inhalation devices when smoking meth using tin foil.

Needles and Syringes

  • If your teen has no medical reason to possess hypodermic needles, finding this type of paraphernalia requires immediate action.
  • Finding needles generally indicates a teen is shooting either meth or heroin, both incredibly dangerous practices.
  • Shooting meth is a chemical onslaught to the bloodstream, posing the highest potential for an overdose.
  • The practice of using needles also comes with its own dangers, such as contracting HIV or hepatitis through needle sharing.

Sandwich Baggies

  • Meth is typically packaged in small plastic bags or baggies made from cutting the corners of larger sandwich bags.
  • Residue seen inside the corners of baggies may appear as a crystalline powder, with an off-white or light brownish hue, or as chunky pieces of clear, broken glass known as shards.
  • Even a tiny amount of residue can be used to perform a drug test (available for sale at stores like Wal-Mart or Walgreen’s), helping you positively identify the presence of crystal meth.

Learn more about methamphetamine addiction and available treatment options.

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