Gateway drugs are defined as consumed substances that may open a way to more dangerous drugs. Drugs like nicotine and alcohol can sometimes act as gateways to other more dangerous drugs like meth, heroin and cocaine, which can all cause addiction. Drugs elevate dopamine levels, and drinking alcohol, for example, could lead the brain to build a tolerance to it and other substances.
Marijuana can affect a person’s attention span, memory, motivation and learning abilities. Marijuana has often been thought to be a gateway drug. However, there’s a great deal of debate regarding the association of marijuana to stronger drugs.
it has been suggested by some that marijuana can make an individual more tolerant towards other, harder drugs and there are some studies to support this. One study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy suggests that 45% of regular marijuana consumers used other illicit drugs later in life.
Heroin is one of these harder drugs, and the studies point out that many heroin addicts started by consuming marijuana or alcohol. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that marijuana consumers are three times more likely to become heroin addicts, compared to non-users.
Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, messing with the person’s brain functions and motor skills. In a 2014 survey, almost 88% of American adults said they had consumed alcohol at some point in their life, while almost 25% reported binge drinking in the past month alone.
A study done by the University of Florida reported that students using alcohol were 16 times more likely to consume illegal substances, like cocaine or amphetamines, later in life. The majority of the students started by using alcohol and nicotine prior to using marijuana, and later turned to even stronger drugs. A study published in the Journal of School Health in 2016 suggests that drinking at a young age may contribute to drug abuse later in life.
Often, harder drugs act as a gateway to other ones: heroin users often transition to prescription drugs, like methadone. In the same manner, prescription drugs may lead to heroin abuse, since a lot of the prescription drugs have similar effects to heroin, contributing to this transition.
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