What are gateway drugs? Do they really exist? Is this even a reality for most people? These are questions that many people ask in their casual using of certain substances. A gateway drug is thought of by most health professionals and addiction specialists as a legal drug that leads to developing an addiction with heavier drugs, like heroin or cocaine. Not everyone believes that is always the situation, based on family history of addiction and drug abuse, mental disorders, and the social environment of the user. Gateway drugs do build on these various factors within a person. Whether it is these factors or just influence from peers and surrounding culture, these drugs are ones to be possibly wary of. The reality is legal substances can create a sense of safety—they can’t be a problem if they are legal, right? “But just because a substance is legal does not mean that it cannot pose a risk of addiction, or lead to the use of harder drugs.” (Christopher Ingraham) Understanding these three substances working as possible gateway drugs is important.
Alcohol has been legal since prohibition in the United States. Alcohol sales have made many people wealthy throughout time, and currently, the trend in brewing private beers and making specific wines is widely encouraged. There are many billion dollar companies that continue to promote the “fun” and socially acceptable person you will be by drinking. Yet alcohol poisoning and overuse are common, especially young adults and young professionals. Alcohol is just as addictive and dangerous as any illicit drug, and the starting point for most addicts is youth. “The earlier kids started using alcohol, the more likely they were to go on to try other drugs. Kids who had their first drink in 6th or 7th grade went on to try an average of nearly two illicit substances later”. (Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post) Simply put, the earlier the alcohol use the more likely they are to turn to harder drugs early in their lifetime. Alcohol is a depressant drug that reduces the ability to think, make smart judgment calls, and stay focused on normal day-to-day activities of life.
Legalization of marijuana is a hot topic that is sweeping the nation, with more and more states voting this legal in recent elections. These states talk about the benefits of the taxes raised through sales, and the lack of people being seriously affected. It is too early to know if the true details of the many positive health benefits of medical marijuana are affecting people to move forward into other drugs. Studies have also shown that marijuana use is common to proceed using other hard and illicit drugs and like alcohol, the earlier the use, the earlier the drug abuse develops. Accepting casual use of marijuana can open your own thinking on the use of harder and dangerous drugs. Families with addiction as a disposition are more inclined to move to other drugs, so this should be something to understand.
The newest and fastest growing is prescription medication, commonly referred to as opioid pain relievers (Vicodin and Oxycontin), stimulants for treating ADHD (Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin), and depressants for relieving anxiety (Valium and Xanax). Since 1996, these have been used and taken in larger doses to have psychoactive results that were not intended when prescribed by a doctor. Highly addictive and expensive, this abuse of opioids has opened the door for the cheaper drug heroin. This is much cheaper and much easier to get on the streets. Heroin overdose is at an all-time high and becoming a top concern in the United States today. Heroin, laced with Fentanyl, is 100% much stronger and creates bigger problems in communities throughout all social economical age groups. The addiction to prescription medication by shooting it up does specifically lead to heroin use, so this is considered a gateway drug of gigantic proportions. And with the cost of heroin much less expensive than opioids, it is readily handy for addicts who grow deeper in their addiction.
These identified drugs can be defined as gateway drug issues, and yet with education, recovery assistance, and knowing the risks can help you avoid the detrimental impact they can have. Refraining from these may or may not be the answer, but by being informed and understanding your family/life issues you can make wise decisions that will affect your life permanently.
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