SPOON INSIGHT: Tell-Tale Signs of Drug Abuse

“Where are all of my new William & Sonoma spoons?”

I casually texted my son, Cody, who was living with me at the time. No answer.  Texted again.  No answer again.

I had recently bought a set of stainless steel flatware for my kitchen at my new house. Cody was working for his dad, and I thought maybe he had taken them to work for lunch or maybe eaten cereal for breakfast on the run, and left them in his car or at work.  Still no answer.

By the time he got home, I had forgotten about the spoons. I did ask him again the next day, and he said he didn’t know.  I couldn’t figure out what happened to most of my new spoons.  It was such a mystery to me, but I figured they would turn up soon (I know you’re thinking how stupid can this woman be).  They didn’t show up.

“An insight is a new thought, containing wisdom outside our current knowledge”, according to author, Michael Neill, in his book “The Inside Out Revolution”.

My current knowledge didn’t include how to heat up heroin in a spoon to be injected intravenously. It didn’t ever occur to me my spoons were being used as cookers to liquefy heroin, and were now burnt spoons.  It was most definitely wisdom outside my current knowledge.  I was undoubtedly naive when it came to drug paraphernalia or the signs of drug abuse.  Of course, alcohol abuse was so much easier to detect because it was wisdom I already possessed, along with the rest of the people on the planet.

Close-up of a young man heating a spoon with a lighter Original Filename: medfrd2146.jpg

I will forever remember the Saturday morning I found out where my spoons were. I was putting away clean clothes in Cody’s top drawer, and I found it all. My heart stopped. I was stunned, mortified, and angry by what I found, but most of all I felt betrayed.  He professed to be sober the entire nine months he lived with me, and I believed him.  I honestly did not know he was using drugs, nor did I suspect it.  I immediately confronted him, and told him to move out of my house within the hour.

I still didn’t have a firm grip or understanding of the disease at the time, but I knew he had crossed a boundary with me.

The obvious turmoil on my son’s 23 year-old face will be forever ingrained in my being.  After I confronted  him, he was sitting on the couch in my basement with his head hanging down, elbows on his knees, and his hands covering his eyes.  Shame, guilt, and pain were evident.  He said he was trying to withdraw from it, but couldn’t.  He told me the OxyContin addiction led to doing heroin, because it was cheaper.  He said he was sorry.

He had already been to rehab twice for alcohol addiction, and I knew instinctively another rehab was down the road. I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen, but that is another story for a different blog.

I wasn’t wise enough to know the signs of opiate addiction, but I put it all together, and there was no more mystery of my missing spoons. It is one of those harsh memories I would like to forget, but never will.

My heart felt like a burnt spoon that day; heavy and black and dirty.

My world transformed in an instant, and I was reluctant to admit the truth to myself. There was no loophole, no rhyme nor reason, no explanation, or rationalization that was going to change this story’s course.  I had to learn to live with this never ending pain somehow, someway.  Not just alcohol addiction, but now heroin addiction.  Nothing could be worse in my mind. Absolutely nothing.  I felt like a complete failure as a parent, and acceptance was complicated to say the least.  Who was this person masquerading as my son?  I didn’t even know him anymore.

Drug abuse usually begins with a choice at first, and addiction typically is a product of continued, persistent drug abuse regardless of the negative consequences to the user or others in their lives.

My new road to hell was about to start with heroin; the devil in disguise who took my baby away from me for good.  Acceptance without judgment took me a long time, but I finally got there.  I finally came to understand addiction as a disease, and not as a choice or moral failure, and not my fault. I came to understand it was stronger than my son; a beast who took him over completely and turned him into someone I didn’t recognize.

I regret being so naïve about the tell-tale signs of drug abuse, so here they are for opiates, stimulants, depressants, and marijuana.

Opiates (Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, Heroin, et al)

  • Tiny, pin dot pupils
  • Appear sleepy and nod off during a conversation
  • Runny nose
  • Sleep for long periods of time
  • Spend lots of time in bathroom
  • Q-tips and lighters
  • Wearing long sleeves to hide needle marks
  • Little orange caps from needles strewn around
  • Little plastic pieces leftover from heroin balloons
  • Missing spoons or burnt spoons
  • Random accidents from nodding off
  • Missing items around the house (pawned)
  • Money hungry

Stimulants (Cocaine, Meth, Ritalin, Crack, et al)

  • Dilated pupils
  • Sores on face and skin
  • Burnt mouth and fingers
  • Red nostrils and sweaty lip
  • Weight loss
  • Spend days awake
  • Constantly active and talkative
  • Razor blade for making lines to snort
  • Random injuries
  • Full of motivation and energized with ideas
  • May sleep for days to recover
  • Missing items around the house (pawned)
  • Money hungry

Depressants (Alcohol, Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, et al)

  • Eyes are glossy
  • Stuck between awake and asleep
  • Limited motor coordination
  • Slowed breathing and pulse
  • Energy is low with less motivation
  • More random injuries
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Slurred speech; too loud or too fast
  • Heavy sweating
  • Loss of memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Loss of consciousness


  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Increased heart rate and anxiety
  • Confusion and poor memory
  • Weight gain
  • Change in appearance due to lack of motivation
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Reduced ability to learn and retain information
  • Apathy and depression
  • Mood changes
  • Inability to understand things clearly
  • Lots of Clear Eyes or Visine bottles laying around
  • Bongs, pipes, foil, pop bottles used for smoking

I hope this helps someone who wants to know the signs of drug abuse. In retrospect, my son exhibited almost all of these signs at one time or another.  I didn’t recognize them soon enough, though.

My hope is that all of you who live with or are affected by addiction gain a little spoon insight from my story.

Mary Cucarola – May 1, 2016