It is very rare that a person tries heroin or cocaine as the first experience with drugs. Instead, most people who do try drugs have already been using a “gateway drug” for some time leading up to that point. A gateway drug is one which serves to open the door to using harder drugs. The three most common gateway drugs are:
For many people smoking cigarettes is just another thing they do, similar to drinking coffee. All too often, however, it is a gateway into hard drug use. A person who starts smoking, after all, has taken up using a drug, and will get used to the experience of using a drug to feel better. It is only a small leap from smoking cigarettes to smoking pot or snorting coke to feel better or to have fun at a party. Smoking cigarettes is relatively socially acceptable, and has become even more so with the recent E-cigarette trend which involves vaporizing tobacco. Recent studies have actually demonstrated that E-cigarette use is associated with higher rates of smoking among young people. Whereas E-cigarettes are supposed to help people quit smoking, they actually appear to be making it more common. In the same way, young people who take up smoking are often more likely to end up using drugs.
Most people who start out using marijuana don’t plan to end up as hard drug users. After all, pot has a widespread public image as a “soft” drug, “just an herb” and a drug that is not addictive. People are supposed to be able to safely use marijuana without getting hooked or suffering an overdose, and the drug is even purported to have a long list of medicinal effects. Laying aside any of the debates about the uses of cannabis, it is a well established fact that people who use marijuana are more likely to also use harder drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy. Some people do get away with using marijuana without ending up as drug addicts, but all too many others don’t. Taking the first puff on a joint is nothing more and nothing less than taking the first step on the road to becoming a hard drug addict.
Beer, wine, and liquor of various types are among the most widely consumed beverages in the United States, and they are also some of the most commonly used drugs. Just as with tobacco, alcohol is a socially acceptable gateway drug that serves as the starting point for many people who end up as drug addicts. People commonly start out drinking socially, end up making alcohol a part of their routine more and more throughout the week, and before long find themselves counting down the hours until they can get home and open a bottle, or looking to alcohol for the relief and refuge that they need. Even if the person doesn’t become an alcoholic, there is still the risk that he or she will transition from drinking into using drugs. This could happen while drunk, or it could be a natural extension from the habit of drinking to experience relief and enjoyment.
Is someone you care about on the road to drug addiction?
The fact that a friend or family member of yours may be using a gateway drug is not a guarantee that he or she will end up as a drug addict, but it does give you reason to be worried. Take the time to make sure that your loved one understands the risks, and offer your help in being available to talk about that person’s problems. Very often, it is stressful and overwhelming life situations that push a person over the edge into drug use, and you have the opportunity to help prevent this outcome by being there to help and support your loved one.