Marijuana, alcohol, nicotine and other gateway drugs boost dopamine levels, which increases pleasure. The dopamine boost caused by gateway drugs during adolescence makes the brain release less dopamine during adulthood. This leads people to seek harder drugs that cause more dramatic dopamine releases, according to the gateway drug theory. Alta Mira offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery. Alcohol abuse can have a host of physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences.After all, the vast majority of people drink, but most of those people will not go on to try hard drugs, and even fewer go on to become addicted to the hard drugs they do try. Now, however, a new study suggests that there may indeed be a causal relationship between drinking and addiction to hard drugs. Recent research into brain development supports the gateway hypothesis. It’s important to remember that the human brain does not finish developing until a person is in their mid-20s. Alcohol or drug use as a teen or young adult can disrupt normal brain development in complex ways that increase the risk of addiction as well as mental health disorders such as depression.In accordance with the American Society of Addiction Medicine, we offer information on outcome-oriented treatment that adheres to an established continuum of care. In this section, you will find information and resources related to evidence-based treatment models, counseling and therapy and payment and insurance options. “Neuroimmune mechanisms of alcohol and drug addiction.” International Review of Neurobiology, 2014. That is why the RCT trials that can establish cause and effect are done in rats. Unfortunately, rats do not share the same complex mix of genetics and environmental factors that make up addiction risk in humans.

Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana: Gateways To Illicit Drug Use

In fact, it doesn’t even have to be illegal to be considered a gateway drug. Used all three gateway drugs were 266 times more likely to try cocaine or other drugs during their adolescence. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse —now the Center on Addiction—supports this hypothesis. In their analysis of data from the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse , CASA found that tweens’ and teens’ usage of gateway drugs strongly correlated with other drug experimentation and use. A teenager with a family history of alcohol or drug abuse and a lack of pro-social skills can move rapidly from experimentation to patterns of serious abuse or dependency. Some other teenagers with no family history of abuse who experiment may also progress to abuse or dependency. Teenagers with a family history of alcohol or drug abuse are particularly advised to abstain and not experiment.It is therefore impossible to rule those out as factors as possible causes of cocaine use or addiction. An example of this in terms of heavy alcohol use is its combination with cocaine. Heavy drinkers users sometimes become cocaine users because they find using both at the same time is particularly euphoric. As the scientific researchers agree, alcohol use, especially in children and adolescents, will increase the probability of other drug use in the future.

Most Commonly Used Drugs By Teens

Gateway drugs may be one factor that affects a person’s risk of trying more dangerous substances. Recent research has revealed that drugs of abuse – especially alcohol – cause an abnormal inflammation in the brain that disrupts the connections between brain cells . These disrupted brain connections lead to new connections that promote the development of addiction and other mental health disorders.They are also 19 times more likely than nonsmokers to use cocaine. Alcohol is probably a gateway drug, according to the results of multiple studies. “The real ‘gateway drug’ is 100% legal.” The Washington Post, January 6, 2016. Griffin, Edmund; Melas, Philippe; Zhou, Royce; et al. “Prior alcohol use increases vulnerability to cocaine addiction by promoting degradation of HDAC4 and HDAC5.” Science Advances, November 1, 2017. If you are affected by an addiction to alcohol or any other substance, The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab can help. Contact us today to speak with one of our representatives about how we can help you get your life back on track.It is one of the most common substances used by young people trying drugs for the first time. In a 1975 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, researcher Denise Kandel created the Gateway Hypothesis. Ala Reefer Madness, Stepping Stone Theory conceptualized the first-time user of marijuana on an irrevocable path toward harder drugs.

  • Teens who are heavy drinkers are 12 times likelier to use illegal drugs than those who do not drink.
  • Rarely did participants first use a substance with acquaintances , family members , or alone .
  • Make sure you get help for your addiction before it completely spirals out of control.
  • The theory states that any use of these substances carries a high probability for more drug use in the future.
  • There’s simply an increased chance, however infinitely small that may be.
  • Not only is the use of these three substances widespread, two of them are legal throughout the nation.

Any drug or alcohol use before age 25 can disrupt the brain’s progress and pose great risk. As Turnbridge detailed in a recent infographic, any habits that happen during adolescence – both positive ones, such as algebra, or negative ones, such as drug use – are learned and stored. While marijuana is typically thought of as a gateway to other substances, it’s not always the first thing people experiment with. Forty-three percent of respondents first used substances at the residence of a friend or family member, while 25 percent did so at their own place of residence. Less than 3 percent did it at a music festival or other concert event, or at the home of a stranger. Even in the event that the individual does not become an alcoholic, the risk is there that the individual will transition to drugs from the excessive drinking. This may occur while drunk, or it could simply be a natural extension of the drinking habit to experience further enjoyment and relief.We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider. Yet, for some people, they can turn from habit to full-on addiction.

Michael’s House Treatment Locations

Certain conditions impact the likelihood of developing an addiction. Environmental and genetic factors can cause a person to experiment with gateway drugs. This includes peer pressure, issues or influences at home, and a history of a family addition. 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. Below are a few tips you can follow to help your kids stay away from gateway drugs and other substances. According to SAMHSA, in 2015, 20.8 million people over the age of 12 had a substance use disorder and 15.7 million of those people had an alcohol use disorder.Possible causes are biological alterations in the brain due to the earlier substance exposure and similar attitudes of people who use different substances across different substances . In 2020, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released a study backing allegations that marijuana is a “gateway” to more dangerous substance use, though not for the majority of people who use substances.This delta only expanded as individuals tried more and more substances. Alcohol was the first substance used for over 65 to 68 percent of participants.Editorial StaffThe editorial staff of American Addiction Centers is made up of credentialed clinical reviewers with hands-on experience in or expert knowledge of addiction treatment. Frequently, individuals will drink socially starting out, and alcohol ends up becoming more of their routine throughout the week. And once again, there is some evidence to support the theory that the use of one drug may increase someone’s likelihood to try another.Nicotine is one of the most common gateway drugs, followed by alcohol. It is a stimulant that provides tobacco users with a sense of mental alertness.

Personal, Social And Genetic Factors

However, all too often, it is considered a gateway into harder drug use. An individual who begins smoking has begun using a drug and gets accustomed to the experience of using it to feel better. For some individuals, it may be a small leap to go from smoking cigarettes to snorting coke or smoking marijuana to have fun at a party or to simply feel better. At Pinnacle we offer drug and alcohol rehab facilities in Arizona that improve peoples lives and make healing possible. We take a comforting approach to healing those who are struggling with addiction.Under this hypothesis, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are all considered “gateway drugs,” preceding the use of one another and of illicit drugs. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, even in its early stages, getting treatment is the best thing you can do to protect yourself from further harm. A residential treatment program allows you to detox in a medically monitored environment to keep you safe and comfortable through the withdrawal process. As you gain sobriety, you give your brain the chance to heal itself and restore healthy equilibrium, reversing alcohol-induced damage and preventing future damage. You can also explore the environmental and experiential factors impacting your drug use as well as any co-occurring mental health disorders and create strategies for moving forward in healthy ways.


As far as addiction is concerned, alcohol is certainly on par with many illegal drugs. Those with severe alcohol use disorder often find it extremely hard to quit, and withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to require hospitalization. So, while it’s certainly worth considering whether alcohol is a gateway drug, it’s important to remember that excessive drinking is a big enough issue on its own. Alcohol Alcohol use disorder affects millions of people in the United States. Learn more about the risks and how to get help.Drugs If you or a loved one is struggling with drug abuse, you’re not alone.