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Is My Loved One on Drugs? A Quick Guide to Smells and Signs

Young frustrated ill woman

Navigating the signs of drug use in loved ones can be complex and emotionally challenging. Subtle indicators might go unnoticed without the right knowledge.

This guide is designed to help you identify these signs through detailed descriptions of what various drugs look and smell like, alongside behavioral, physical, and environmental cues.

Understanding these signs is crucial in determining the best course of action, whether that’s initiating a conversation or seeking professional help.

How To Tell if Your Loved One Is on Drugs

Identifying drug use in loved ones can be difficult, as the signs can often be subtle.

Here are signs of drug use to watch for:

Behavioral Changes

  • Sudden shift in friend groups or increased secrecy
  • Mood swings, irritability, or unexplained personality changes
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or school, coupled with declining grades
  • Unusual demand for money or secretive about finances

Physical Signs

  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Unexplained nosebleeds or frequent sniffles
  • Visible track marks or wearing long sleeves inappropriately to cover them
  • Rapid weight fluctuations or uncharacteristic smells on clothes or breath

Environmental Clues

  • Discovery of drug paraphernalia like pipes, rolling papers, or scales
  • Finding missing prescription drugs or use of eye drops to hide dilated pupils
  • Usage of excessive room deodorizers or incense to mask drug smells

What Does Marijuana Smell and Look Like?

Close up of Jack Herrer medical marijuana buds

Marijuana has a distinct musty, skunk-like smell to it. It is easy to identify the smell of buds as well as when it is smoked. The scent will also linger and can be hard to cover up.

Marijuana buds look like dried flowers. If it has already been ground up, it could look like any green to brownish herbs like dried parsley, basil, or marjoram.

What Does Cocaine Smell and Look Like?

This will depend on whether cocaine or crack cocaine is being abused. Crack cocaine can smell like burning plastic or strong chemicals when it is smoked. Cocaine has more of a floral scent that is hard to detect since it is typically snorted.

Cocaine looks like a white powder, such as baking soda. Crack cocaine can look like small whitish-colored rocks or powder if it has been ground up.

What Does Heroin Smell and Look Like?

Drug syringe and cooked heroin on spoon

Heroin does not always have an odor, depending on its purity. Less pure heroin will smell like vinegar when it is being smoked. Yet, the smell quickly goes away.

Heroin can be white or brown powder. The white powder looks like baking soda, while the brown powder looks like cocoa powder. There is also a form of heroin that is sticky and looks like burned sugar or tar and is black.

What Does Meth Smell and Look Like?

Meth, crystal meth, or methamphetamine can have a few different smells, depending on how it is produced. Some types of meth can smell like burning plastic when it is smoked. Other types of meth have a strong chemical smell like cleaning products. Another common scent to be aware of is if your loved one smells like ammonia all the time.

Meth looks like small white to off-white color crystals, as well as bluish-colored crystals, similar to shards of glass. It can also look like a white or blue powder if it has been ground up.

What Does GHB Smell and Look Like?

Bottle of GHB

GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) typically has a slightly salty or chemical smell, though it can be nearly odorless which makes it difficult to detect. When ingested, it may be disguised in beverages, so a chemical odor in unopened drink containers could be a warning sign.

GHB appears as a colorless liquid, or it can be in the form of a white powder that easily dissolves in liquids. It is often stored in small bottles, similar to eye drops, making it inconspicuous and easy to conceal.

What Does PCP Smell and Look Like?

PCP (Phencyclidine), also known as angel dust, has a distinctive chemical smell that can be reminiscent of a permanent marker. This odor becomes more pronounced when the drug is smoked.

PCP is typically found as a white or tan powder or as a liquid. Sometimes, it is sprayed onto leafy materials like mint, parsley, or marijuana to be smoked. The powder form can be pressed into pill form or mixed into other substances.

What Does Fentanyl Smell and Look Like?

Fentanyl Citrate

Fentanyl itself does not emit a strong odor, making it extremely difficult to detect through smell alone. It is often mixed with other drugs like heroin, masking its presence further.

Visually, fentanyl can appear as a pure white powder very similar to talcum powder. However, when it is mixed with other substances, it can take on a variety of appearances, commonly mimicking the look of other powdered drugs like cocaine or heroin.

What Does Nitrous Oxide Smell and Look Like?

Nitrous oxide is generally odorless, which makes it difficult to detect by smell. It is popularly known as “laughing gas” and used in aerosol cans or whipped cream dispensers, which are sometimes clues to its misuse.

This gas is usually housed in metal canisters or whipped cream chargers and is inhaled through balloons or directly from the container. The lack of smell and the commonness of its containers can make it especially hard to identify when abused.

What Should I Do if I Suspect Drug Use?

The first thing to do is to learn more about drug use from a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center. They can provide you with the resources and information you need to determine whether your loved one has a drug problem.

Adelante Recovery Centers’ drug addiction rehabilitation program offers tailored intervention strategies and rehabilitation services that focus on long-term recovery and wellness.

Our experienced team is equipped with the expertise to handle various aspects of addiction and recovery, ensuring a supportive environment for your loved one to heal and thrive.

For further guidance on how to help a loved one struggling with drug addiction, or to learn more about our unique approach to treatment, please feel free to contact Adelante Recovery Centers at (949) 427-9099 today!

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Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and how we can help you today. We accept private insurance.

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If you or a loved one are in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our professional and friendly addiction specialists are able to answer your questions and get things moving in the right direction.