A gateway drug is a substance that is believed to be a precursor to using drugs which are heavier and more hazardous. It isn’t unusual for drug addicts to continue using these drugs after they’ve begin experimenting with more addictive substances. Gateway drugs tend to be easier and cheaper to acquire than their more addictive counterparts and in the case of alcohol and cigarettes may be purchased legally. Once the high obtained from these substances is no longer effective the user may choose to try harder, more dangerous drugs to achieve a stronger high. Three of the most common gateway drugs are marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes.
Marijuana is one of the most popular gateway drugs and has been glamorized in books, movies and music. There are plans to legalize it in a number of states, and while the drug does not have the same addictive properties as other substances using it early in life can reduce the reactivity of the dopamine center within the brain. Marijuana gives the user a high and once this high is no longer as effective due to prolonged usage some users will transition to harder drugs.
Alcohol has a fascinating history, particularly within the United States. When the nation was first established it was completely legal, but then became illegal by 1920 and remained that way until 1933. During this time a black market emerged in which it became largely controlled by the mafia. Alcohol is legal today for those over 21 years of age but it is common, and even acceptable for teenagers to consume it in some places.
Alcohol when consumed in moderate amounts is not hazardous or addictive, but in greater amounts can lead to addiction or liver damage. When under the influence of alcohol, an individual is more susceptible to experimenting with other, harder drugs. This is why many people die due to overdoses which result from combining alcohol with other controlled substances, as it is a dangerous combination.
If there is any “legal” drug which should be banned then it is definitely cigarettes. Unlike marijuana it is highly addictive due to nicotine and is full of other ingredients which directly harm the body, and unlike alcohol it is hazardous even when consumed in moderate amounts. However, the thing which makes cigarettes far more dangerous than either alcohol or marijuana is second hand smoke.
When a user lights up a cigarette and begins smoking it, not only do they harm themselves, but anyone that is in their vicinity who inhales the smoke. This is one reason why cigarettes have been banned in many public places. Cigarettes are also a potential fire hazard, as a user who dozes off and drops one onto a carpet or bed sheet can start a fire that results in their death or the deaths of others. Cigarettes are one of the most common gateway drugs and are reportedly used by many that transition to harder substances. Traditional cigarettes are also slowly being phased out by e-cigarettes which are touted as safer alternatives by comparison.