What are the Most Dangerous Gateway Drugs?

September 21, 2012

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Gateway Drugs

Gateway Drugs

If you are dealing with drug dependency or drug addiction, or if someone who you love has a drug problem, you are undoubtedly aware of the pain that drugs have brought into the lives of everyone in the family. During drug rehabilitation, one of the essential parts of the process is learning exactly how the drug problem developed. In the wide variety of rehab programs offered by rehabs, each program type will help drug abusers and addicts to review their life and learn the true origins of the problem so that it can be prevented again in the future. In many cases, patients who seek treatment for drug dependency are able to identify certain gateway drugs that may have led them into more serious drug usage. The most dangerous of these gateway drugs can include the following.


Marijuana is generally considered the most dangerous of the three drugs typically called gateway drugs today. In an article about marijuana as a gateway drug, The New York Times called it the “country’s most widely used illicit drug.” Today’s marijuana is as much five times as potent as the marijuana that was widely used in the 1970s, and with this added potency can come an added risk of dependency or even moving into other more dangerous drugs such as heroin in a quest to keep the same type of drug high. Although marijuana is legally used for medical purposes in some places today, there is a significant difference between medical use situations and non-medical use ones: Namely, that medical users will use only a specific, prescribed dosage at pre-determined intervals for relief of a specific condition like glaucoma, while non-medical users will use marijuana purely to get a high and may use it in amounts far greater than medical patients would. Marijuana will not cause fatalities or overdoses on its own, however when it is combined with other drugs or when it leads to other drugs it can ultimately contribute to serious addiction.


Although alcohol is, in its own right, a serious addiction problem for many people, it is also considered to be a Gateway Drugsdangerous gateway drug. In a 2012 study at the University of Florida, it was found that alcohol was the most significant of the gateway drugs for adolescents. The study drew the conclusion that if school and public health officials recognized that alcohol use could predict serious substance abuse later and initiating alcohol prevention programs for young people, its power as a gateway drug could lessen and substance abuse of all types could potentially be lessened as a result. Alcohol can be a gateway to serious drug usage for people of any age and awareness of this fact can be very helpful in stopping drug abuse before it has a chance to start.


Nicotine, such as that found in tobacco based cigarettes, is often cited as one of the dangerous gateway drugs. In 2011 studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health, it was shown that nicotine use may actually prime the brain, making the behavioral impact of cocaine more pronounced, and showing how that occurred. This study was conducted in an effort to determine whether the gateway drug effect applied to nicotine, since evidence clearly indicated that the majority of those using illegal drugs also used tobacco products containing nicotine prior to using the other drugs. This study was the first time that the mechanism increasing susceptibility to illegal drug usage was explained, and has reinforced the role that nicotine does play as a gateway drug.

Any drug user, especially any drug user who has admitted that they have a problem and who is seeking treatment for it, will be able to chart their own personal history of addiction. This is a vital part of the recovery process, and it will almost always involve a discussion of one or more of the dangerous gateway drugs discussed in this article. Awareness of how these drugs can accelerate dependency on other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine is very helpful. Whether you or your loved one is just starting to realize a problem exists or whether you are looking for a treatment program in a rehab today, you are very wise to have educated yourself more about dangerous gateway drugs.

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