The theory that if you consume “milder” drugs it can lead to more powerful drug use has been around for years. Identifying drug abuse is the first step in combating gateway drugs. Gateway drugs can take several forms, all of which are dangerous and could have life threatening consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from drug abuse, it is important to seek help.

The Gateway Drug Theory

The theory surrounding gateway drugs has been debated for years. It typically refers to substances that are “milder” opening the door for harder drugs. For example, someone who smokes cigarettes may be more likely to try cocaine. These milder substances, such as nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana can still cause extreme adverse effects.

Even when gateway drugs enter the body, dopamine levels shoot up way past normal. If this begins occurring in adolescence, besides the possibility of developing an addiction, a person can experience less dopamine release when they are an adult. This is because drugs have a direct impact on the brain’s chemistry and affect the reward pathway. Once that pathway is damaged or shoots above normal levels, a person’s brain will begin seeking that same feeling it received from the drug. Over time, as they continue to use, a person’s tolerance will rise. According to the theory on gateway drugs, a person will then seek other more powerful drugs.

Common Gateway Drugs

The school systems have been warning their students about gateway drugs since the 80s. Drug abuse and addiction can be associated with several risk factors, which the gateway drug theory may influence. These other factors could include genetics, family history, and environmental factors. Listed below are common gateway drugs.

Nicotine is a common gateway drug. Tobacco products have been one of the longest recognized gateway drugs. These include cigarettes and JUUL pods. Studies have shown that nicotine in the body creates an increase in the levels of FosB. This is a gene in the brain that is connected to cocaine addiction. Although these studies were done on rats, scientists believe the same could occur in humans since they share the gene. Teens who smoke are also more likely to use illicit drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

Alcohol is another common gateway drug. Alcohol is considered a depressant and depresses the central nervous system. This means that it impairs how your brain reacts to situations and inhibits motor skills. Studies have shown that teenagers who drank alcohol were around 16 times more likely to use other drugs, such as cocaine. Some believe this is because alcohol is more socially acceptable and then they make the transition.

Marijuana is also a gateway drug. It affects someone’s attention span and memory. Studies have shown that marijuana actually can build a person’s tolerance to other drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that those who use marijuana are three times more likely to abuse heroin than those who have never tried marijuana.

Teens and Drug Abuse

Early prevention is key when it comes to drug abuse. Thankfully, there are many programs in place that help to educate teenagers about the dangers of drug abuse. Most teen preventative tactics surround the school setting. Students often learns about the dangers of drug use and how to steer clear of peer-pressure. However, drug abuse still occurs and it presents dangerous consequences.

The teenage years are often marked by rebellion and risky behavior. Statistics would agree. Teenagers are more likely to become involved in dangerous activity, including drugs and alcohol. Teenagers often feel a strong desire to fit in and do not want to be singled out. They may also experience subtle or direct peer pressure that could influence them. If you are a parent who is concerned for their teenager, there are steps you can take in order to identify signs and talk with your teen.

Signs of Drug Abuse

Identifying the signs of drug abuse can often be challenging. You will want to look for anything that may be amiss. This could be changes in mood and attitude or changes in appearance, such as hygiene. It may be helpful to keep a journal, so you will be able to mark down red flags that pop up.

A person who is suffering from drug abuse may lie or steal from you. You may notice money missing out of your purse or they may use the money you have given them for drugs. They may not show up to events you had planned or meet some of their obligations. Their work performance begins to show signs of faltering or their grades begin to slip.

A person abusing drugs may also show different changes in mood. If your loved one is generally a pretty easing going person, you may notice the attitude changes right away. A person may start acting out of character, become agitated easily or going through a roller-coaster of mood changes. They may become tired more easily and even sleep at abnormal times during the day. Showering may have been put on the back burner for a few days and they may not have made a good meal for themselves either.

How to Talk to Your Loved One

It is important to remember that the sole fact of someone is suffering from drug abuse does not make them a bad person. Drug abuse and addiction need treatment in order for a person to get better. Always speak positively and factual. You never want to pass judgement onto your loved one. Explain to them that they have your love and support no matter what. Drug abuse can have potentially life threatening effects. This is why if you or a loved one is displaying signs of drug abuse, it needs to get addressed quickly.

The dedicated team of professionals at Arizona Addiction Recovery Center have a special recovery program for young adults ages 18 to 35. This program is completely individualized and help the person build a strong recovery foundation. Goals, life skills, and self reflection are all implemented in the program, setting up your loved one for success. Call today to learn more about specialized treatment programs.

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