In most cases, it is difficult to tell whether your neighbors are using drugs. It is possible to smoke, drink, snort, or inject any number of substances without leaving the privacy of your home or disturbing those around you. However, if your neighbor is selling drugs, or has a serious drug problem, it is usually evident to observant members of the community.
I have been unfortunate to have had several neighbors who used drugs, so I will share the tell-tale signs:
– Heavy users of drugs such as meth and cocaine will go an inordinate amount of time without sleeping. I had an upstairs neighbor who, judging by the sounds coming from above, would stay awake for days on end. From midnight till morning she would run about, dancing, vacuuming, doing God knows what, but there was hardly ever an eight-hour period of time in which a normal person would have been sleeping that she was quiet. If you notice your neighbor out and about at all hours of the day and night, or mowing the lawn by moonlight, be suspicious. Some people are just night owls or early birds, but rarely is someone both.
– Watch the traffic. Do guests come to the house and only stay a few minutes? Are there often people sitting in their cars on the street or in the driveway? Do you see a lot of unfamiliar faces and vehicles? Usually if someone is in a location for such a short amount of time, they are picking something up or dropping something off.
– Pay attention to the appearance of your neighbor and his guests. Not all drug users look like the stereotype of a junkie, but those with a serious addiction sacrifice thier health and cleanliness at the expense of the drug. Meth especially wears hard on the body, and produces ugly sores on the skin. Watch for slurred speech, difficulty walking, an odor of smoke, and residue on the hands and fingernails.
– Look for emergency vehicles visiting the house. If there is a lot of drug activity, there will inevitably be fights, overdoses, noise complaints, etc. Once the situation is under control, speak to an officer on the scene about your concerns for yourself and the community.
– Finally, get as close as you safely can to the neighbor’s yard, and look around their house (or into their car, if possible) for paraphernalia related to drug use. Users will often leave these things in plain sight: around the yard look for chemical containers and piping. Also search for bits of Brillo pad (used in crack pipes), broken glass, empty sandwich bags, syringes and syringe caps, and pipes. Anything with an unusual residue or odor is suspicious. Look at the house itself as well; are any or all of the windows covered in plastic or aluminum foil? Is there a chemical odor coming from inside? None of these things alone is alarming, but factored together usually are an indicator of suspicious activity.
If you suspect your neighbors are using drugs, first evaluate how concerned you should be in the matter. A couple of college guys who you suspect smoke a little marijuana are generally not going to cause you any personal harm; a meth lab next door, however, could be putting your life in danger. Any drug dealing in your neighborhood is putting, at the very least, your property at risk of theft or vandalism. Next, take action. If you live in an apartment community, inform the manager immediately, and the police department. If you live in a house, tell the community watch leader, if there is one, as well as the police. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that getting rid of such a neighbor can be very difficult, but you must be persistent. Call the police every night if you have to; they will be glad for the tips.