Although gateway drugs are described as being “softer” than drugs like cocaine or heroin, many people often wonder if they are addictive. We learn about gateway drugs throughout middle school and high school, but because these drugs are so commonly used, we often forget about the possible harm they can cause. But are gateway drugs addictive? Here is everything to know on gateway drugs including: 

    • Gateway drug definition
    • Background on gateway drugs 
    • Three main gateway drugs 
    • Gateway drug statistics 
    • Harmful effects of gateway drugs on the body 
    • Gateway drug treatment options 

    Do You Know Gateway Drugs Are Normally Not Addictive?

    There is a lot of debate on this topic, and although gateway drugs are not normally addictive, it is absolutely possible. There are several factors that could help determine if someone is more or less likely to become addicted to gateway drugs, including family history with drug addiction, genetics, mental health issues, social life, etc. However, gateway drugs are not normally addictive, despite what many people believe. Any drug can have the potential of becoming addictive, especially when excessively used and abused, but gateway drugs are not nearly as addictive as the drugs they might lead to. 

    Gateway Drugs Definition

    Gateway drugs are drugs that are considered to be ‘softer” than most other others, and that can lead to using more addictive drugs. Although just about any drug abuse has the potential of turning into a worse addiction, gateway drugs are typically the less harmful drugs that are likely to lead someone into a heavy addiction. Many people first experiment with gateway drugs during their youth and adolescent years which is why educational programs are crucial to help prevent possible addiction with the younger generations. 

    Background of Gateway Drugs

    The term gateway drugs came out the 1980’s as researchers began noticing the different stages of drug use and addiction. Throughout this time, different studies were conducted showing a connection between marijuana use leading to heroin addiction and alcohol use leading to heavier drug use. 

    Students are often introduced to the topic and dangers of gateway drugs during the anti-drug program Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.). Throughout this program, students are taught the dangers of drug use and the potential harm of the three main gateway drugs. 

    What Are the Three Main Gateway Drugs?

    The three main gateway drugs include: 

    • Alcohol: The most commonly consumed gateway drug, alcohol has the risk of being addictive when in combination with several underlying factors and because it causes impaired judgement, it can lead to drug experimenting and drug addiction. Alcohol has been found to be linked to the use of cocaine, opioids, and heroin.
    • Nicotine: With new nicotine technology such as e-cigarettes and vapes, nicotine use is extremely common and is often a part of the user’s daily routine. While nicotine is considered a gateway drug and can lead to further addiction, it alone is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Nicotine has been found to be linked to the use of cocaine and heroin. 
    • Marijuana: This drug is considered one of the most common gateway drugs, yet several debates exist about the addictiveness and harm of marijuana. Marijuana use is typically socially accepted, but has been proven to lead to further addiction. Marijuana has been found to be linked to the use of cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy.

    Some Important Gateway Drugs Statistics

    • Adolescents who smoke cigarettes are 100 times more likely to use illicit drugs in the future than non-smoking adolescents 
    • Nearly 90% of cocaine users have reported first using tobacco/nicotine, alcohol or marijuana 
    • Children who drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than nondrinker
    • From a study of college students, students who used alcohol were found to be 16 times more likely to use illicit drugs in the future 

    Harmful Effects of Gateway Drugs on the Body

    Alcohol, nicotine and marijuana can all cause harmful effects on the body. Alcohol, for instance, is a central nervous system depressant and impairs brain function and motor skills. Excessive alcohol use can cause damage to nearly all bodily organs. Smoking or ingesting nicotine and marijuana can greatly harm the lungs and cause different kinds of heath conditions such as cancer. Each of these gateway drugs can damage the heart and lead to heart attacks and cardiac arrest. 

    Although gateway drugs are less addictive than drugs such as heroin or cocaine, they can still cause harmful effects on the body when used excessively and irresponsibly. 

    How to Stay Safe from Gateway Drugs Addiction and Treatment Options

    Nearly all drugs have the potential of causing harm on the body and mind. The simplest way to stay safe from gateway drug addiction, is to not use the drugs in the first place. While each gateway drug is fairly common among today’s society, an alternative to complete abstinence is to use them responsibly, meaning in low-risk amounts and in a safe environment. 

    If you or someone you know are struggling with drug addiction, help it out there. Eagle Recovery Center can help you treat your addiction before it is too late. Contact Eagle Recovery Center today at (888) 512-1378 to learn more about treatment options available to you. 

    Citations “What are Gateway Drugs? Information and Prevention.” Reviewed 28 February, 2020 

    Addiction Education Society. “Gateway Drugs.”