“Gateway drug” is a term that is used to mark the progression of drug use. The gateway drug is synonymous with someone who moves towards harder and stronger drugs to continue getting an intense high. For an adolescent, any drug that is used while their brain is still developing is considered a gateway drug because they already have a higher risk of addiction and potential risks of brain damage. The main culprits that are considered gateway drugs are nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana. Using just one of these drugs creates the risk of wanting to use bolder substances as a teen builds up their tolerance. Typically, these three drugs are much easier to get access to than harder street drugs or prescription drugs. Marijuana, alcohol, cigarettes, and e-cigarettes are sold readily at convenience stores and dispensaries making them socially accepted in society today. As teen users consume these seemingly familiar drugs and experience their first feelings of blissed intoxication, they may gain momentum to try more drugs with the mentality of what is next on the agenda that can get me high and make me feel even better? Since the part of the brain that is used for judgement, self-control, and decision-making is the last to mature, teens are more likely to act hastily and on impulse just for the thrill-seeking that they desire.
The most recent way that teens are abusing nicotine is with e-cigarettes such as the JUUL. Instead of thinking that vaping is dangerous, they become infatuated with the juvenile packaging, the fruity flavors, and the ability to get away with vaping on such a small device. One JUUL pod is equivalent to the amount of nicotine that is held in one pack of cigarettes and most likely will lead them to try traditional cigarettes, and eventually marijuana.
This drug is probably the most underrated gateway drug because of the amount of people who drink socially on a regular basis. Being under the influence of alcohol can invoke risky and dangerous behaviors that a teen would not normally do sober such as drunk driving, having unprotected sex, binge drinking, or trying hard drugs from lowered inhibitions.
Considered a mellow drug, most experts say that marijuana does not lead people to try other drugs. The exception for this statistic is with an adolescent whose brain is still forming which poses a higher risk for trying other substances due to a lack of maturity. Whether gateway drugs are theory or not, the reality is that anyone under the age of 25 could be harming themselves. Addiction and brain damage are as real as can be and should be contemplated before entering the gateway of substance abuse.
If you or an adolescent you know needs to get help for drug or alcohol abuse, Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center can give you the guidance that you deserve. Establishing a strong network of family and community can reinforce practices for living substance free.
Call us today to start living in your recovery: 662-598-4214