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Heroin Paraphernalia

Heroin paraphernalia is any legitimate equipment, product, or material that is modified for making, using, or concealing heroin.

Heroin paraphernalia generally falls into two categories:

  • User-specific products
  • Dealer-specific products

User-specific heroin paraphernalia is marketed to heroin users to assist them in taking or concealing heroin. The most common use of heroin is by injection (called "mainlining" or "shooting"), but in its powder form it can be inhaled through the nose or smoked. These products include hypodermic needles, small cotton balls used to strain the drug, spoons or bottle caps for "cooking" (liquefying) the heroin, and a "tie-off" that the user wraps around his or her arm to make his or her veins protrude. Paraphernalia for sniffing or smoking heroin can include razor blades, straws, rolled dollar bills, and pipes. Also, balloons are used as a method of transporting and/or trafficking the drug.

If someone you care about is under the influence of heroin, he or she may have constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, depression, apathy, decreased physical activity, and nausea. A frequent user may nod or appear sleepy, and repeatedly scratch or touch their face and nose. Larger doses of heroin may induce sleep, vomiting, and shallow breathing. An overdose can cause slow and shallow breathing, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, or death.

Dealer-specific heroin paraphernalia is items used by drug traffickers for preparing heroin for distribution at the street level. Items such as scales, vials, and baggies fall into this category.

Under the Federal Drug Paraphernalia Statute, which is part of the Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to possess, sell, transport, import, or export drug paraphernalia as defined by the statute. The law gives specific guidance on determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia. Many states have also enacted their own laws prohibiting drug paraphernalia.

With the rise of the drug culture in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, the country began to see the appearance of .head shops.. Head shops are stores that sell a wide range of drug and heroin paraphernalia. While some of the paraphernalia was crude and home-made, much was being commercially manufactured to cater to a fast-growing market. Enterprising individuals even sold items openly in the street until anti-paraphernalia laws in the 1980s eventually ended such blatant sales. Today, law enforcement faces another challenge. With the advent of the internet, criminals have greatly expanded their illicit sales to a worldwide market for drug and heroin paraphernalia. For example, in a recent law enforcement effort, Operation Pipedreams, the 18 companies targeted accounted for more than a quarter of a billion dollars in retail drug and heroin paraphernalia sales annually. Typically, such illicit businesses operate retail stores as well as web sites posing as retailers of legitimate tobacco accessories. In reality, the products are intended for the illegal drug trade.

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