There is a common misconception in society that some substances are “safer” than others or that certain substances can be consumed at the moment for a “good time” but will not lead to dependency or even a substance use disorder. This type of thinking is quite dangerous, as many of these perceived “safe” substances fall under the category of gateway drugs.
Gateway drugs are truly indicative of their name; these substances allow for someone to easily transition from being substance-free to having a substance use disorder. Per the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a gateway drug is defined as “a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (such as cocaine or heroin)”.
Here are four common gateway drugs in Washington State:
- Alcohol: Alcohol is considered to be the first gateway drug with which most adolescents experiment first. The Washington Post reported on a study that found 54 percent of high school seniors identified alcohol as the first substance they tried out of alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. What is worse, the younger the age of the individual trying alcohol as their gateway drug, the more likely that individual would go on to try multiple illicit substances throughout life.
- Marijuana: This substance deceives many under the guise that it is all natural and thus cannot cause dependency or even addiction. According to a publication from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this assumption is false, and studies have shown that those who use marijuana are more likely to transition into an alcohol use disorder within three years than those who have not used marijuana. The same publication cited marijuana as being linked to other substance use disorders.
- Nicotine: This legal and ever-present substance in society is considered by the National Institute of Health to be one of many gateway drugs. Over 90 percent of adults who use cocaine cited nicotine, through smoking cigarettes, as their substance of choice prior to the use of cocaine. This makes the case for quitting cigarette smoking even more compelling, as the urges that drive the move to heavier substances can be derailed when you remove nicotine from the picture.
- Prescription Medication: In recent years, the public has become more aware of the dangers of prescription pain medications being addictive and leading to the use of other substances like heroin. The dangers of prescription medication as gateway drugs are not limited to prescription pain pills. Prescription stimulants used for disorders like ADD or ADHD, such as Adderall, are just as much gateway drugs as their pain pill counterparts.
Gateway drugs can be found throughout everyday life and should be avoided as much as possible. If misuse of any of these gateway drugs has caused you or someone you love to fall prey to substance use disorder, all is not lost. The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. In addition to offering effective Washington addiction treatment resources, our compassionate and professional staff can help you find treatment options that match your unique circumstances. Contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield today to begin a conversation about how you can achieve and maintain sobriety.