By definition, a gateway drug is one, which supposedly leads the user on to more dangerous and addictive drugs. The gateway drug definition also encompasses prescriptive drugs that may lead an individual to abuse harder drugs.
Here are the top three gateway drugs and how they lead to addiction;
Alcohol as a gateway drug
Alcohol abuse is triggered by some societal risk factors. These factors include;
- A family history of addiction
- Mental disorders such as depression
- An environment where it is normalized
- A social life featuring frequent alcohol use
Alcohol abuse builds on these risk factors, often compounding the risk of developing drug dependence and addiction. Over time, an individual will seek stronger substances to supplement the alcohol dependency, which puts them at risk of addiction.
Marijuana as a gateway drug
Marijuana legalization is one of the most contentious debates in the country today. While some people contend that the drug poses a minimal health risk, others hold that the drug can lead users to more dangerous drugs. Marijuana has an addictive component called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is responsible for the “high feeling” users describe. Over time, the brain builds a tolerance to this element pushing the individual to consume more marijuana to achieve the same level of high. Consequently, the user starts using other drugs to achieve similar and higher levels of intoxication.
Further, just like alcohol, marijuana abuse is sparked by several risk factors such as accepting the casual use of the drug.
Prescription Medications as gateway drugs
There is a popular myth that prescription medications such as Oxycontin or Adderall are not addictive. However, these drugs are just as addictive and could lead an individual to harder drugs.
The most abused prescription medicines include:
- Opioid Pain Relievers (Vicodin and Oxycontin)
- ADHD stimulants such as Concerta, Adderall, and Ritalin
- Anxiety depressants such as Valium and Xanax.
Some prescription painkillers are opioids; this implies that they have a similar core component to hard drugs such as heroin. As such, unregulated use will lead to a high level of dependence, and subsequently, an individual will seek harder drugs to achieve similar levels of intoxication.
Prescription drugs may be way riskier than alcohol and marijuana since an individual indulges them innocently, maybe to suppress chronic pain. Dependence is slow but gradual, and the addiction is even stronger and harder to break from.
There is no precise gateway drug definition that enlists all gateway drugs; however, the above are the most known and are responsible for a significant number of addictions in the country today.
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