Adolescence is often a time where teens try to find themselves by experiencing new (and often times dangerous) things. Surrounded by peer pressure, some teens are more likely to drink and smoke marijuana. Merriam-Webster defines a “gateway drug” as “a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (such as cocaine or heroin).” Because alcohol and marijuana are mainly used recreationally, most people don’t consider both drugs to pose any severe health threats.
Gateway Drugs Lower Inhibitions
Marijuana, the most commonly used drug, is very popular with today’s youth. With the rise of marijuana legalization across the country, the drug is becoming more socially acceptable. Because the side effects of using marijuana are virtually low, weed smokers are more likely to use more regularly.
The chances of your teen using harsher drugs after trying marijuana are higher than those who don’t smoke. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported that teens who regularly use marijuana are 30 times more likely to try crack cocaine, 20 times more likely to use ecstasy, 15 times more likely to use prescription pills and 14 times more likely to abuse other over the counter substances.
Besides marijuana, underage drinking is also very popular in today’s society. Social settings like house parties encourage underage drinking due to lack of parental supervision. Alcohol use also encourages teens to try harsher drugs while under the influence. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, underage drinkers are more likely to use harsh drugs within two hours of alcohol consumption.
A common side effect of gateway drugs is the lowering of inhibitions. While using alcohol and marijuana, teens have impaired judgment which makes them more likely to try illegal drugs. While it cannot be proven that use of gateway drugs directly cause teens to abuse harsh drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and meth, it is very rare to find someone battling illegal drug addiction who has not used gateway drugs first.