What do Drugs Smell Like?

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Some drugs have strong, distinct smells, whereas others have a milder smell that is more difficult to detect. Parents who suspect that their children may be using drugs can look out for changes in behavior like withdrawing from family and friends, showing agitation, anxiety or depression, glazed eyes, decline in personal hygiene or grooming, and moodiness.

Another clue that a child is using drugs is a lingering smell after drugs are vaped, smoked, or otherwise consumed. This article will cover what drugs smell like to help you identify whether or not your child is using drugs. This allows parents to intervene early and help their child while the addiction is still in the beginning stages. 

What does meth smell like? 

Meth, short for methamphetamine, is a highly addictive drug. Although meth is used in many different ways - snorted, injected, swallowed, and smoked - the smell can only be detected when it is smoked. Smoked meth smells similar to burnt plastic, chemicals, and cleaning products. Some describe it as smelling like ammonia or vinegar, both potent smells.

The smell lingers where meth was smoked, and may also be smelled on the user’s breath. It can also emit these odors on the sweat for some time after meth was last used.

What Does Crack Smell Like? 

Crack, or cocaine, is a widely used, extremely addictive stimulant drug. People who suspect a loved one may be using crack may wonder, what does cocaine smell like? The smell of cocaine in powder form is faint- the powder is used by either injecting (dissolved in liquid), snorting, or swallowing.

Crack cocaine, the crystalized version of cocaine that is smoked, has a more pronounced odor. Like meth, it smells of burnt plastic, chemicals, and cleaning products. Others describe it as smelling like burnt rubber.

What Does Weed Smell Like?

Weed, a street name for marijuana, is a derivative of Cannabis, and can be smoked, vaped, or eaten. The smell of smoked weed is very pungent, and can be detected for a while after it is smoked. There are many variations of marijuana, and some have traces of other synthetic drugs, which means that the smell of weed can vary greatly.

The smell of weed has been described as that of a skunk, burning rope, or musk. People who smoke marijuana are usually aware of the strong smell that lingers in their car or on their clothes, so they may use strong air fresheners, body deodorants, and other strong smells to mask the marijuana.

What Does Fentanyl Smell Like? 

Fentanyl is an incredibly potent opioid drug that can cause overdose or death when even a small amount is taken. Unfortunately, fentanyl is odorless, so if a child is using fentanyl, you will not be able to detect it by smell, although there are other factors that can show that your child is using drugs.

What Does Heroin Smell Like? 

Heroin, otherwise known as opium, is a natural opioid derived from the poppy plant. If you know someone who may be using opium, you may wonder, what does opium smell like? Heroin is injected, snorted, inhaled, or smoked. The smell is usually mild but is described as vinegar-like or acidic. Additionally, the smell doesn't linger after being smoked, making it even harder to detect when used in pure form.

Heroin may be used with other drugs like marijuana or cocaine, both of which have a distinct smell. Heroin, like fentanyl, is lethal, so although it does not emit a strong odor, parents should be aware of the other signs of drug use so they can help their children early.

What Does PCP Smell Like? 

PCP, or Phencyclidine, is a hallucinogenic substance with dissociative properties. It can be purchased as a pill, liquid, or powder, and can be snorted, injected, swallowed, or smoked. When smoked, it produces the distinct odor of permanent markers.

Can Drugs Change the Way Your Body Smells?

The smell of some drugs lingers in the area where the drug was smoked, and on the clothing, hair, and skin of the person using the drug. At most, the temporary lingering will disappear after a few days.

The breath of a chronic drug user can change when drugs with a strong taste are swallowed or rubbed against the gums. Hallucinogenic drugs are known to cause excessive sweating for days after use, altering the smell of the body.

Other Signs of Drug Use

As explained above, smell is only one of the many tell-tale signs that your child may be using drugs. In the case of an odorless drug or a drug that is difficult to detect via odor, other signs that your child may be using drugs are very helpful and include:

  • Disinterest in regular friends and relationships
  • Hanging out with new people who use drugs
  • Stopping to engage in usual hobbies, activities, and responsibilities
  • Staying out of the house late at night
  • Being agitated, angry, and hostile
  • Exhibiting anxiety or depression
  • Extreme mood swings (high when on drugs and low during withdrawal)
  • Being secretive, lying, and stealing
  • Lacking coordination, balance, and impulse control
  • Experiencing insomnia and unhealthy sleep hygiene
  • Sudden weight loss, weight gain, or changes in eating pattern
  • Red eyes, dilated pupils, and constant runny nose
  • Decline in personal hygiene, grooming, and appearance

If you identify some of these signs in your child, chances are that they are using drugs and may already be addicted.

What NOT To Do: 

Discovering that your child may be using drugs is a scary experience. You may be tempted to do something rash like yell at your child, confiscate their stash, and forbid them ever to use drugs again. The reality is that although instinctive, those methods are rarely helpful and usually harmful.

As frightening as it may be, you do not have control over what your child does, and trying to assert your control will only make a delicate situation worse. Wanting to protect your child from falling into addiction is a noble pursuit, but realize that your child may not be ready to terminate their drug use, or you may be late to the game, and your child may be struggling with a full-fledged addiction already.

What to do if you suspect your child may be using drugs:

Here’s what you can do if you think your child may be using drugs:

  1. Educate yourself- Do research into the harmful effects of using drugs so you have the data to present to your child. Don’t allow the information to paralyze you or cause you to act irresponsibly. Rather, find out which mental health counselors, therapists, and rehab facilities can help your child and compile data to present to your child.
  2. Have a conversation- Find a neutral time when your child is not on a high from the drugs and is calm, open, and receptive to talking to you. State your suspicions in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental way. Reassure your child that you will not punish them- you want to help them.
  3. Listen- Allow your child to share their experiences. Give them space to explore what they are feeling, why they turned to drugs in the first place, how they feel when using the drug, and how difficult it is to deal with the withdrawal symptoms when the effects of the drug wear off.
  4. No expectations- Do not expect your child to open up to you entirely or immediately be receptive to your suggestions for speaking to a therapist or, if necessary, enrolling in a rehab facility. Your child will likely be defensive, lie, or get irrationally angry. Don’t match their anger or retaliate; keep calm and stay loving. Your goal should be to keep the line of communication open. Your child should feel safe to share their experiences with you and approach you for help when ready.

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder:

It’s a good idea to find out about different treatment options to help your child when they are ready to start the journey to sobriety. The first step to recovery is medical drug detox treatment at a hospital or rehab center, where they will help your child wean off the drug slowly and safely while helping them manage their withdrawal symptoms.

The next step is engaging in one-on-one and group therapies to help your child learn the skills of managing negative emotions effectively and how to remain sober for the long term. At Avenues Recovery Center, we’ve helped more than 30,000 people struggling with drug addiction gain sobriety. Reach out today so we can help your child, too. Our staff are experts in the field of addiction, and will guide and support your child every step of the way to recovery. We use a mix of holistic and traditional therapies, as well as personalized treatment plans to ensure optimal success. If you would like to begin the journey to sobriety, contact us today. We promise you won’t regret it,

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