Everything You Need to Know About Gateway Drugs

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Everything You Need to Know About Gateway Drugs

Many addicts start out using a drug that they believe to be harmless, but often this bad habit can build into a much more troubling concern.

A few puffs here and there with your buddies could later lead to a crippling addiction and eventually hitting rock bottom. If you think that this couldn’t possibly happen to you, just remember that many addicts have thought the same thing. Unfortunately, our detox center in Palm Beach sees this happen all of the time and gateway drugs may be to blame.

What Are Gateway Drugs?

Gateways drugs is a term used to refer to substances whose use is thought to lead to the use and abuse of more dangerous drugs and possibly the development of an addiction. Gateway drugs are typically thought to be less harmful drugs, but the dangers of gateways drugs lie in the possibility that users will begin to seek out harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

For some people, gateway drugs may never lead to a problem, but for others, the dangers of gateway drugs cannot be understated and the use of these drugs can open up a can of worms.


Common Gateway Drug Examples

These drugs can vary and people can have different opinions about what qualifies as a gateway drug. For our purposes, we are sticking to some of the most commonly agreed upon examples of gateway drugs including:

  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription Pain Pills
  • Nicotine


While some people argue against these claims, other research supports these connections. One study found that adults who used delta 8 THC were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years compared to those who did not use marijuana.1 Another study found that students who drank alcohol on a regular basis where more likely to abuse both licit and illicit drugs than their peers who did not drink.2 There have also been numerous connections made between prescription pain pills and heroin. Data from one study shows that as many 86% of heroin users surveyed had abused prescription pain medicine before starting the use of heroin.3 Nicotine has also been widely reprimanded for being a gateway drug. One study found that 90% of cocaine users between the ages of 18 and 34 had smoked cigarettes before turning to cocaine.4 Whether these connections were the cause of the initial gateway drug or simply a reflection of the person is also up for debate.

Gateway drugs may not lead to more issues for everyone, but the possibility is always there. Do not wait for your pill-popping habits to turn into the need for heroin addiction treatment. Addiction is a disease and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Life events may also change how at risk someone is for developing a substance abuse problem. A traumatic event could lead someone to their tipping point where occasional recreational drug use turns into dependence. At this point, our co-occurring disorder treatment in Palm Beach is necessary to address both issues.

Whether you or someone you love struggles with one of these gateway drugs, do not wait for the problem to get worse to finally get professional help. At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we offer a variety of programs to help people who struggle with both substance abuse disorders and mental health problems. Call 561-220-3981 and get started today.



National Institute on Drug Abuse – Is marijuana a gateway drug?

NCBI – Alcohol as a gateway drug: a study of US 12th graders.

National Institute on Drug Abuse – Prescription opioid use is a risk factor for heroin use

National Institute on Health – Why Nicotine is a Gateway Drug


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