It’s rare for an individual that tries cocaine or heroin to be their first time giving drugs a try. Instead, most individuals who try drugs have previously been using what is known as gateway drugs. A gateway drug is a drug that essentially opens the door to harder, more potent drugs. Here is a look at three of the most common of these gateway drugs.
#1: Nicotine: Socially Acceptable, but Dangerous
For individuals who smoke cigarettes, it is simply one more thing that they do on a regular basis— like drinking coffee or soda. However, all too often, it is considered a gateway into harder drug use. An individual who begins smoking has begun using a drug and gets accustomed to the experience of using it to feel better. For some individuals, it may be a small leap to go from smoking cigarettes to snorting coke or smoking marijuana to have fun at a party or to simply feel better.
Smoking cigarettes tend to be fairly socially acceptable—even more so with the vaping and e-cigarette trend that involves vaporizing tobacco. Recent research has shown use of e-cigarettes is associated with increased smoking rates among the younger generation. While e-cigarettes are supposed to assist individuals in quitting smoking, they are actually doing the opposite. At the same time, younger individuals who are starting to smoke are more likely to start using drugs in the long run.
#2: Marijuana: The Most Common Gateway Drug
Most individuals who start by using marijuana don’t have intentions on becoming hard drug users. After all, marijuana has a public image as being a soft drug—an herbal drug—a non-addictive drug. Individuals are supposed to use marijuana safely without suffering an overdose or getting hooked, and marijuana is even said to have an extensive list of medicinal effects.
If you set aside the debates regarding the various uses of cannabis, there is a well-established fact that marijuana users are more likely to use harder drugs like heroin, cocaine, as well as ecstasy. Some individuals may get away with using marijuana and not become a drug addict, though there are plenty that don’t. Taking that first puff of a joint is essentially the first step on the journey to becoming a hard drug addict.
#3: Alcohol: The Most Consumed Gateway Drug
Wine, beer, and various liquors are some of the most popular consumed beverages within the country, but they are also the most commonly consumed drugs. Like tobacco, alcohol is a somewhat socially acceptable drug that tends to serve as the starting point for individuals who wind up as drug addicts.
Frequently, individuals will drink socially starting out, and alcohol ends up becoming more of their routine throughout the week. Before long, they start counting down the hours before they can get off work or out of school, get home, and open up a can or bottle; they look to alcohol for the refuge and relief that they need to get through the stresses of the day.
Even in the event that the individual does not become an alcoholic, the risk is there that the individual will transition to drugs from the excessive drinking. This may occur while drunk, or it could simply be a natural extension of the drinking habit to experience further enjoyment and relief.
IS SOMEONE YOU LOVE ON THE JOURNEY TO ADDICTION?
Just because you have a family member or friend using one of the aforementioned gateway drugs does not necessarily guarantee he or she is going to wind up as a drug addict; however, it does provide you with a valid reason to be concerned. Take time to ensure that your loved one is fully aware of the risks and offer your assistance in being available to listen and talk about your loved one’s problems. More often than not, a person is pushed over the edge to use drugs due to overwhelming and stressful life situations, and you are in the perfect situation to help prevent that type of outcome by simply being there to list and support your loved one.
For more information on how you can help, information on gateway drugs, or detox programs, contact us at Shadow Mountain Recovery.