AddictionDrug AddictionProgramsman smoking one of the gateway drugs

A gateway drug is any “low potency” habit-forming drug which can lead to the consumption and addiction to more potent ones. Studies suggest that consumption of gateway drugs such as tobacco or alcohol can lead to more serious addictions later, especially for young people. In addition, by educating youth in the dangers of gateway drugs and introducing them to an Oxycontin addiction treatment program, it may help them to avoid and overcome more serious addiction issues later.

About Gateway Drugs

So, what are gateway drugs? Gateway Drugs are addictive but less potent substances such as alcohol or tobacco that can lead to addiction to more potent substances such as heroin, meth or cocaine. This is not meant to imply that addiction to less potent drugs like alcohol is not a serious issue and still needs alcohol addiction treatment.

The theory behind Gateway Drugs indicates that gateway drugs like marijuana, nicotine and alcohol increase dopamine concentrations in the brain. Also, this is especially critical in adolescents. As a result of increasing the dopamine levels in their brains in adolescence, this causes the brain to release less dopamine in adulthood. As a result, as adults they will require a drug that causes the release of more dopamine to achieve the same high. This can cause adolescents addicted to drugs like marijuana, nicotine and alcohol, to become more easily addicted to drugs like heroin and meth.

Gateway drugs may also be involved in a process called cross-sensitization, which increases brain activity and seems to make people more susceptible to more potent ones.

These substances are only one factor that makes individuals more susceptible to addiction. Additional factors include:

  • Family history
  • Underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
  • Genetics
  • Living environment

Controversy Surrounding the Gateway Theory

The theory that addiction to substances may lead to more serious addiction is not without its detractors. In addition, many people point out that youth who smoke marijuana often give it up in adulthood without transitioning to more potent drugs. Also, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that there is some evidence however to support the gateway theory:

  • Children who use marijuana are more likely to use cocaine
  • People who drink alcohol as adolescents are more likely to use cocaine
  • People who used marijuana as youths are more likely to be regular cocaine users.

What are Common Gateway Drugs

Common substances include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Tobacco
  • Prescription drugs
  • Inhalants like glue
  • Ecstasy
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Energy Drinks


The best prevention for addiction to gateway drugs and more addictive ones is to avoid addiction initially. In addition, education may be able to help with this. Also, youth prevention education can help teens learn about the dangers of drug abuse.

Gateway Drug Treatment

Every gateway drug has its own treatment regimen. Serenity Light Recovery, located in Angleton Texas treats drug addiction with a combination of medication, counseling and moral support. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us today at 855.658.6109.