What Is a Gateway Drug? Marijuana, Alcohol & Other Drugs
What Is a Gateway Drug? Marijuana, Alcohol & Other Drugs

What Is a Gateway Drug? Marijuana, Alcohol & Other Drugs

Gateway drugs are milder drugs that can open the door to exposure to or experimentation with harsher substances. For example, many people may feel that nicotine and alcohol are relatively harmless. This idea is magnified by the fact that these substances are legal to purchase and use. Rats share many neural similarities with humans, making the results of this study something to consider in the debate over the existence of gateway drugs. Youth are vulnerable to pot, as their brains are still developing.

alcohol is a gateway drug true or false

They also say that drug use rates in other countries aren’t affected by the prevalence of marijuana. There’s also evidence that genetic differences at birth may increase a person’s risk of drug use. Researchers began using the term “gateway drug” in the 1980s to describe substances that initiate these stages. Prior use of gateway drugs is an indication of possible advancement to the spectrum of substance use disorders, such as opioid use disorder , but no more. However, there are several other major indicators you could also describe as “gateways” to the future use of stronger substances, and the subsequent development of a disorder or an addiction. As we’ve seen, the evidence that gateway drugs influence the future development of substance and addiction problems is sketchy and sometimes conflicting.

The concept built up around the term gateway drug implies that by simply using a certain substance, you will automatically go down a path of severe addiction and eventually wind up using harder substances. Although certain substances may serve as entry points for a small portion of individuals, not every person who uses a so-called gateway drug will wind up using harder substances. In our hypothetical story, the man had no problems tapering off hydrocodone, but his friend developed a dependency over time and eventually graduated to using harder substances. As always, substances can affect different people differently due to numerous factors, both social and physical. While the majority of people who use substances like nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, and prescription pills do not go down the road to harder substance use, it remains a possibility for some individuals.

In these studies, participants would be given alcohol and placebos to see what happens. But this is unethical due to the necessary participants’ ages and therefore not an option. While RCT trials are performed on rats in an attempt to make sense of certain connections, rats don’t share the same genetic disposition as humans do, creating too many discrepancies. It increases the likelihood of using other addictive drugs, including other gateway drugs like marijuana and nicotine . Today, our Banyan rehab in Boca Raton is looking into the theory of gateway drugs and whether alcohol is used as a gateway drug among adolescents and teens. The phrase “gateway drug” refers to any substance a person uses to get “high” that could potentially lead them to use stronger, more dangerous drugs in the future.

The liver can only metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed (CDC Alcohol and public health,n. d.). Caffeine can interfere with your ability to recognize how intoxicated you are, which can lead you to drink more. Companies that make energy drinks claim that the drinks can increase alertness and improve physical and mental performance.

There’s simply an increased chance, however infinitely small that may be. Secondly, someone who is a user of virtually any addictive substance is at an increased risk – however significant or otherwise – of using and having problems with other addictive substances in the future. In some cases, drinking may have no impact on a person’s overall substance use.


Studies indicate that a large number of people that became addicted to more hardcore drugs tried marijuana at least once in their lives. In fact, a number of animal studies indicate that exposing young rodents to THC early increases their potential to develop addictions to other drugs. Early exposure to THC results in a number of changes in the neuropathways that can make them more susceptible to addiction.

Alcohol was the primary gateway drug in yet another research project of U.s 12th grade students. According to the findings, alcohol served as the primary entry point for the use of other drugs such as tobacco and marijuana. Researchers have found that addiction-inducing substances like alcohol cause abnormal brain inflammation that interferes with neural cell communication, according to recent studies . These changes in brain interactions can exacerbate addiction and other psychological disorders, prompting an alcohol recovery program.

The best studies for determining cause and effect are randomized control trials , which would involve giving groups of adolescents alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana to see how they react. RCTs have been undertaken in this area with rats; however, there are significant differences between humans and rats in how they react to a complex set of environmental and genetic factors. Those who use alcohol in their teens are more likely to abuse illicit substances later in life. Even though the gateway hypothesis has been around since the 1970s, more recent discoveries about the science of the brain and addiction support it. In particular, the brain does not finish developing until the mid-20s and is very susceptible to chemicals that disrupt that development. If you or a loved one is battling drug or alcohol addiction, get help as soon as you can.

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However, these people were also exposed to things like soda, video games and comic books, and there is no way to rule those out as factors leading to addiction. The previously mentioned gateway hypothesis remains controversial, even among researchers. Arecent animal studydid not find that alcohol use in adolescent rats led to increased self-administration https://sober-house.org/ of cocaine later in life. However,another recent studyfound a strong association between prior alcohol consumption and later obsessive cocaine use in rats. Another study of American 12th-graders singled outalcohol as the No. 1 gateway drug. The study found that alcohol was the primary gateway to drug use, including cigarette and cannabis use.

  • Once she ran out of a desired substance, she wanted to obtain more of it and ended up in jail for robbery for attempting to steal in order to support her self-medicating habit.
  • Since anyone 21 or older can legally purchase alcohol, it is typically not viewed in the same light as illegal drugs.
  • A study published in Annals of Epidemiology revealed ecstasy may be a gateway drug to cocaine and methamphetamine.
  • Although the gateway theory has yet to be confirmed, recent studies and research support it.

This article will discuss the idea of gateway drugs and whether or not alcohol qualifies as one. It will also provide information about alcohol misuse and substance misuse. There are a number of statistics and studies that indicate that individuals who smoke marijuana, for example, are not conclusively related to substance use of any other drugs in the future. Teens who use gateway drugs are 266 times more likely to become addicted to cocaine than those who don’t. Individuals who self-medicate have a tendency to combine prescription drugs with alcohol.

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Developed tolerance to alcohol makes it more difficult for the person to experience a high or “buzz,” encouraging them to begin using other potent drugs for that effect. Some studies show a relationship between early alcohol use and later drug use. This could be because people vulnerable to drug use start with alcohol, which is more readily available than other drugs. A person can take steps, both as an individual and as part of a community, to help prevent substance or alcohol misuse. If a person’s drinking habits cause issues with personal relationships, health, or their ability to work, they may be experiencing AUD. It is possible to misuse any substance, regardless of whether it is legal, illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter .

Review this timeline to see alcohol consumption and trends through the years. Beer, wine, and liquor are the standard types of alcohol consumed. The category “liquor” has hundreds of types and within those types, even more eco sober house cost brands are available for consumers to purchase. Explore this chart from Mayo Clinic to calculate your personal caffeine consumption. The purpose of this website is to provide health education resources and education.

alcohol is a gateway drug true or false

Teens who progress from alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use to the use of illegal drugs may simply be in an environment that is more permissive of drug use. They may also be genetically vulnerable to substance use, so they begin experimenting early with alcohol, tobacco and marijuana and then progress to harder drug use over time. Studies9have also shown that there are cross-generational effects, where a parent’s use of gateway drugs increases their child’s risk of using amphetamines and heroin. The cause was thought to be changes to brain chemistry stemming from the use of these gateway drugs, which made adolescents more likely to seek out stronger drugs later on. Gateway drugs are mild or even legal substances, such as nicotine or alcohol, that can prime a user to try harder drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

Finally, alcohol itself is an intoxicating substance, and is technically illegal if consumed underage. If an adolescent starts drinking alcohol, and experiences no serious consequences, they may begin to question whether other illegal substances are really so bad. Being intoxicated in certain contexts may also start to feel more normal or socially acceptable, making substance use in general less taboo. Environmental factors, such as growing up in a home where parents use drugs or having parents who have a positive attitude toward drug use, increase the risk of using illegal drugs.

Many people who use marijuana long term and are trying to quit report mild withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult. A fatal overdose is unlikely, but that does not mean marijuana is harmless. The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting.

Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?

This issue may also be regulated on a local level, in addition to any state regulation . More than $156 billion in lost productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure. Cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spend billions of dollars each year to market their products. In 2019, the largest cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $8.2 billion on advertising and promotional expenses in the United States alone. Breastfeeding women must also be aware that alcohol and other substances can be passed to their breastfed infant.

Our treatment programs are custom tailored to your specific needs. One phone call is all it takes to start your recovery from drug & alcohol dependency. Additionally, you can apply the same familiarization angle to injecting drugs, known as “shooting up.” Once a drug user becomes habituated to the process of drug injection, eg.

The concept is based on the “gateway hypothesis,” which states that adolescents who experiment with these drugs are more likely to use other addictive drugs later in life. One study from 2016 found no relationship between teenagers using tobacco, alcohol, or cannabis and an increased risk of using illegal drugs later in life. It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use.

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