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Parent’s Guide to What Cocaine, Crack, Meth, Heroin and other Drugs Smell Like

Do you ever walk into your child’s room and smell something odd – an aroma you can’t quite decipher? Or have you ever gone to move your teenager’s car and notice that it smells a bit funky?

Suspecting a child of abusing drugs is a scary ordeal to go through. You can usually get a vibe from their behaviors, but unless they open up about their habits, it’s difficult to know with certainty. It’s even more difficult to figure out which substances they’re abusing.

Luckily, you have a secret weapon for detecting possible drug use in your house: your own nose. Most drugs give off some sort of aroma, especially when the substance is smoked.

Help guide for parents to find out drugs though smell

Here’s a brief guide to help parents fine-tune their sense of smell and crack this dangerous drug puzzle

What Does Meth Smell Like?

When meth is smoked, it emits a potent odor that many say smells like chemicals or cleaning products; others say it reminds them of burnt plastic. Additionally, after someone goes on a meth binge, their sweat may start to smell similar to ammonia.

What Does Heroin Smell Like?

Generally speaking, all forms of heroin give off a vinegary, acidic smell when smoked. However, due to the different types of heroin – and the fact that batches are produced in different geographical regions – each tends to have a different odor. In its pure form, like China White, heroin puts off the least detectable stench.

What’s more, the dangerous heroin/fentanyl combo barely gives off a smell. To make things even more difficult for parents, the smell of smoked heroin dissipates at a rapid pace. After it’s lit, the smoke tends to clear out in just a couple minutes.

What Does Marijuana Smell Like?what does synthetic marijuana smell like

Marijuana has a very strong and distinct smell that’s hard to describe. But once you’ve smelled pot, you’ll easily be able to detect the scent in the future. Different strains contain different undertones, but all weed has a skunky, burnt rope smell when it’s smoked. The scent of marijuana is potent and lingers for quite a while; it’s one of the only substances that can be detected before it’s lit and long after it’s burned.

What Does PCP Smell Like?

Also known as Phencyclidine, PCP is a powerful hallucinogen that’s easily distinguishable from other drugs. Smoking is the most common route of administration. As PCP burns, users say it smells like a permanent marker.

What Does Crack Cocaine Smell Like When Smoked?

Crack doesn’t release a pleasant smell when it’s smoked – it’s said to smell like a mixture of chemicals and burning plastic.  If you’re curious to learn more, take a walk inside your local nail salon to get the idea. (Extra Tip: The scent of crack smoke is similar to that of meth.)

Take Our “Am I a Drug Addict?” Self-Assessment

Take our free, 5-minute “Am I A Drug Addict?” self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with drug addiction. The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result.


Opiates are typically the only kind of pills that are smoked. Pills like Oxycontin or Percocet give off a sweet smell as they burn. Users frequently say the smoke tastes and smells like sugar and burnt marshmallows.

Additional Reading:   7 Steps to Take After Finding Your Teen’s Drug Stash

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