One of the most disturbing aspects of dealing with an addict is the lengths that person will go in order to hide their drug use. It’s difficult to see a loved one behave in a manner where they’re concealing a major part of their lifestyle from those closest to them. Even though it is part of the disease of addiction, it is very challenging for family members and friends to take.
Why Do Addicts Hide Their Drugs?
Anyone who has become close to an addict is all too familiar with their pattern of lying. Hiding drugs is part of this pattern, and it happens for several reasons.
- To Hide Their Addiction From Others
One of the outcomes of addiction is that those affected often lie. They lie to others about the fact they’re addicted, what they’re using, how much they use, how much they spend to support their habit and where they buy their drug of choice. With lying being such an ingrained part of the disease, it makes sense that they would take steps to hide their addiction from others. If they’re “not using” drugs, then it would logically follow that they would have no reason to have drugs in their possession.
- To Hide the Severity of the Addiction
In some cases, a young person may have revealed to their parents that they’ve experimented with drugs. They may not be forthcoming if the problem has become more severe and they’ve slid down the slippery slope into addiction. Hiding a drug stash is a way of hiding the magnitude of the addiction and avoiding the consequences of using drugs.
- As a Type of Self-Denial
No one grows up thinking they will ever become an addict. It’s not something anyone aspires to, but unfortunately, it’s the reality in many homes. Hiding drugs is a way for the addict to “put away” the problem. They avoid having to deal with the fact that they had hopes and aspirations that had nothing to do with getting high and being someone influenced by a chemical substance.
Once addiction takes over, the urge to use is a compulsion. An addict may tell themselves or family members that they can stop any time they want to, but this is not true. They may hide their drugs as a way of convincing to themselves that they can do without them.
Addicts are often highly skilled liars. Naturally, this includes lying to themselves about the severity of their problem. They fail to understand the consequences of their continued drug (or alcohol) use. The truth is something an addict won’t be able to admit to themselves or others until they get into a treatment program.
Common Drug Paraphernalia
When you are looking for hiding places for drugs, you should be aware that if your loved one is involved with drugs, they will likely have other items used to administer the substances as well. If the idea that a family member is involved with drugs is on your radar, be on the lookout for the following things that they may be using as part of their habit:
- Inhalation Tools
People who are experimenting with inhalable drugs may have tools to roll their own joints or have a pipe in their possession. Look for tobacco rolling papers, as well as foil from cigarette packs, cardboard liners from paper towel or toilet paper rolls and masking tape or tin foil. Using the last three items addicts can manufacture a makeshift hashish pipe or a crack pipe, one that’s easily dismantled and disposed of.
Other items that may indicate that a loved one is inhaling drugs would be finding plumbing or metal pipes when they don’t have reason to have them. Finding cigars, which can be used to fill with marijuana to make a blunt, or e-cigarettes, which may be used for smoking marijuana concentrate, are possible signs of drug use. Some addicts will buy water or glass pipes and try to explain that they like the design but don’t use drugs.
- Snorting Tools
Addicts whose drug of choice is a snortable substance, such as cocaine, may have small mirrors, razor blades, lighters, and small spoons among their possessions. Rolled-up bills, paper tubes or short plastic straws are another sign that your family member is snorting something.
- Injection Tools
The obvious tools used by someone who is injecting drugs would be needles. They may be kept in a small container or a kit, made of wood, metal, plastic or fabric. The kit would need to be small enough to be portable since the user would need to find a place where they can be alone for a few minutes to prepare and inject their substance of choice.
The kit could contain a belt or other object to act as a tourniquet, to allow the addict to find a vein to inject the drug in, small candles and spoons for heating the drugs, a lighter and needles. It may also contain pipes, a plastic pen case or a cut-up drinking straw.
- Pill Ingestion Items
A person who is taking pills to get high may not need specific tools for this purpose. They may have a container holding pills of different sizes or colors. Chances are, there is more than one substance inside. A prescription bottle with someone else’s name on it is another red flag that your family member has a drug problem. Quantities of plastic sandwich bags among their belongings (potentially to store large numbers of pills) are another possible indication.
Where Do Addicts Hide Their Drugs
Addicts are very resourceful when it comes to finding places to put their stash. The following list includes common and not-so-common spots places to hide drugs.
Hiding Drugs In Personal Items
- Small amounts of marijuana or hashish can be placed in a highlighter in the space between its nub and the tip of the cap.
- Some users hide cocaine inside pen barrels. This part of the pen can also be used to snort the drug.
- Lip-gloss and lipstick containers can conceal ecstasy tablets, LSD or small amounts of cocaine. It’s always assumed that these containers carry the product as advertised, so very few people would think to open the cap to check.
- Individually wrapped sanitary napkins can conceal small amounts of marijuana in a woman’s purse. The drugs can be placed in a baggie inside the unused pad, and the pad is rewrapped. If the pads are carried in a small pouch inside the purse, the one concealing the drugs can simply be tucked away. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would ever go to the trouble of opening individual feminine hygiene products looking for drugs.
- Candy or gum wrappers may not contain the product they were originally intended to protect. The wrappers can be carefully removed and the original item discarded, only to be replaced with small amounts of drugs. Once replaced, the ends of the wrappers can be glued closed.
- Belt buckles can hold a small amount of drugs, and some shops (both brick and mortar and online) carry specialized merchandise designed for this purpose.
- Sock drawers are another place where people tend to hide drugs, either inside a pair of socks or somewhere in the confusion of the drawer itself.
- Drug stashes can be rolled up and placed inside pairs of disused shoes. Corners of shelves in closets are not looked at or cleaned often and make good hiding spots.
Hiding Drugs Around the House
- Drugs can be wrapped in plastic and placed underneath toilet tanks to avoid detection.
- Vents and cold air return ducts present nooks where users can put their drugs. They could also remove the covers from light switches and outlet plates, and hide drugs there.
- The undersides of dresser drawers are another often-overlooked stash storage. It’s possible to tape a small bag of drugs to the underside of the drawer if it’s flat enough. If there is a space between the bottom drawer of a dresser and its frame, this is a spot where drugs can be hidden and no one would think to look.
- Video game consoles generally have hollow parts in them that make good places to hide drugs. Check out old controllers and remote controls that tend to sit neglected; the unused battery compartment is a handy spot to stash drugs.
- Check for holes in mattresses and under box springs where an addict could conceal drugs. Stuffed animals can also be used for this purpose. A teenager vehemently attached to a particular “stuffy” may have an ulterior motive for holding onto the toy.
- Drugs can be hidden behind pictures and posters on walls. Very small amounts could be placed inside a picture frame displayed on a table or desk.
- If the ceiling tiles in your basement are removable, look for points of access where your loved one can get close enough to access a bulkhead or a corner where drugs could be stashed. Unfinished parts of your basement can be home to disused containers and would make convenient places to put drugs.
- Consider items on your family member’s dresser or desk that are around longer than what should make sense. For example, if you see a pop can, water bottle or a Thermos container that never seems to move, this could be a sign that they’re concealing drugs in these containers. Alternatively, they could just be a poor housekeeper.
- If your family member suddenly becomes interested in having books around them, consider that there are companies that sell home safes made to look like reading material. They’re not meant to conceal drugs and paraphernalia, but an addict could use them to conceal these items. A creative and very patient addict could also take the time to hollow out a book to stash drugs inside its pages.
- Bottles normally used to store water, juice, fruit punch or drinks, soda, mouthwash or cough medicine can conceal alcohol.
Hiding Drugs Outside the Home
- Cars present numerous opportunities for addicts to hide drugs. They can be stashed under the hood, under floor mats and in the area under the seats or the dashboard. Check older model cars for the ashtrays in the backseats; these small spaces can be used to stash a small amount of drugs. Look for spots where the car’s carpet is detached from the body of the vehicle to make a space where a baggie of drugs can hide.
- Nooks and crannies outside your home can also present opportunities for hiding drugs. Consider opportunities along your family member’s route to school where they can stash drugs. Abandoned lots or buildings present multiple places can easily conceal a small container.
- Look around your own yard for places where something can be concealed. If you have a plastic composter with a small door that can be raised up to remove compost that is ready for use as well the large top opening, consider that your family member could place drugs into a plastic container and conceal them in your compost bin. You’ll also want to look at planters and the bottom of outdoor ornaments for holes that could be filled with baggies or bottles of drugs.
If your family member suddenly starts making changes in their personal care items, it could be a sign that they are using drugs. For example, if they start needing to use eye drops frequently to treat bloodshot eyes, this could indicate a substance abuse issue. Someone who starts wearing sunglasses to cover up their red eyes or that their pupils are either dilated or have shrunk to pinpoints when it doesn’t fit the amount of light in the room or outdoors may be involved with drugs.
Similarly, a person who is suddenly using mouthwash, breath sprays or mints more often than usual may be really trying to take care of their oral health or trying to cover up a problem with alcohol or something else they are taking by mouth. It’s worthwhile to ask them what’s going on.
How to Approach your Loved One About their Addiction
There are a series of steps you need to take when approaching a family member about their addiction.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s type of addiction.
Go online, contact your local public health department or ask your family doctor where you can access information in the community about addiction. The more quality information you can gather about this disease, the better you will understand what your family member is dealing with.
- Consider joining a 12-step program for family members of addicts.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide help and support for families of addicts. Dealing with an addict is not easy, and hearing about the experiences of others in similar situations can help you realize you are not alone.
- Find a detox and treatment center for your loved one.
Next, you should search for a drug treatment center for your family member. By doing the legwork before you have a conversation about their addiction, you can immediately move into having them go to treatment if your discussion goes well. Otherwise, you will lose the momentum to take the next step right away.
- Start a discussion about seeking help.
The worst thing you can do is ignore the addiction. Try to find a time to talk to your family member when they’re not under the influence of any drug. Start by saying what you have observed or that you have discovered drugs, without accusing or blaming. State that you are concerned about their health.
Be prepared to hear denials or even blame for your family member’s addiction. Keep in mind that addicts lie and that they may not even realize that they’re being untruthful. Ask your family member if they will go to see a doctor or to a detox clinic.
If they’re agreeable, make the arrangements. If not, you will need to let them know what you are prepared to tolerate in your home. You may want to consider holding an intervention to make these limits clear to your family member and to offer the option of getting help.
JourneyPure at the River offers detox and inpatient rehab services. Call us now to find out how we can help you and your family.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.