The Gateway Drug Theory
According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, The Gateway Drug Theory suggests that licit drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, serve as a “gateway” toward the use of other, illicit drugs. Many people usually correlate this theory with prescription medication becoming a gateway to other dangerous opioids such as heroin or fentanyl, but there is some research to suggest that alcohol can be a gateway drug as well.
Some of the many gateway drugs include:
How is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?
Alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, making it hard for some people to believe that it could be a gateway drug to illicit substances. However, this is exactly how it can become a gateway. The prevalence and normalization of alcohol allows people the opportunity to experiment with their limits before moving on to other substances.
When people drink alcohol to excess, they may act or speak in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Alcohol releases large amounts of dopamine and gives people courage in social situations that they may normally not have. They are also more likely to engage in risky or irresponsible behavior, such as using other drugs.
Change in Social Circle
One of the many reasons alcohol is a gateway drug is due to the new social circle that often surrounds alcohol. Some people may have a “party crowd”, or people known as their “drinking buddies”. These are people that they feel more comfortable drinking in front of, and that friendship often doesn’t run deeper than just having a good time together.
This is because some people might not feel as comfortable drinking of family members or certain friends, so they need to find a group that they do feel comfortable drinking in front of. This is normal, however, if the wrong friends are chosen, it can lead to peer pressure or introduction into trying other substances. If this social circle is frequently chosen over loved ones and family members, it can be a big red flag for addiction.
Normalization of Party Drugs
When people start spending a lot of time drinking alcohol at bars or clubs and spending more time with their party social circle, they may start to see other illicit substances around them. While they may not partake at first, there is a good chance that they might try it eventually. This is because the more and more they surround themselves with people who use drugs, the more normal it becomes. In addition, the more and more they see their friends high and having a good time while high, they higher the likelihood is they will eventually give it a try for themselves.
Seeking Another High
Another reason that alcohol can be a gateway drug is that some people might grow tired of the feeling of being drunk. There could be a chance that they get sick too often or don’t enjoy the feeling of being drunk, so they want to find something else. They may find that they enjoy something else instead of drinking, and the only way they would have figured any of this out would be if they abused alcohol in the first place. In addition, once people are comfortable with their limits on alcohol, they may feel “brave” enough to try something stronger.
Dangers for Young People
For many people, drinking alcohol is a socially acceptable part of life for enjoyment, celebrations and special occasions. However, for young people, it can quickly become be a very large part of their lives. This is especially true when young people are in high school or beginning college and have finally become a legal drinking age. It is much easier for young people to fall into a bad party crowd than it is for older adults.
According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, more high schoolers who were abusing multiple substances had used alcohol than any other substance, and even those using other substances had first started with alcohol. In addition, children who drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than nondrinkers, according to a survey by NIDA.
Be Aware of the Signs
If you use alcohol, it is important that you are aware of the signs that it may eventually become a gateway drug. This is especially true if you are a young person, or have a history with substance abuse. If you find that the crowd you surround yourself use other substances than just alcohol, do your best to distance yourself from them.
In addition, you can get help for your alcohol addiction before it becomes a larger problem. If you notice yourself becoming curious about other substances, or if peer pressure is surrounding you, chances are alcohol will become a gateway to other drugs and it’s time to stop the cycle.
About Cliffside Malibu
If you have fallen into a person with substance use disorderion due to alcohol, you are not alone. The gateway drug theory has had many studies performed on it since the mid-’80s, and research has supported it time and time again. Luckily, addiction is a treatable condition. Make sure you get help for your addiction before it completely spirals out of control.
Since no two addictions are the same, Cliffside Malibu offers an individualized treatment plan for each and every client. Treatment plans are created based on a client’s current stage of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, or Maintenance. This model helps ensure that all patients receive the best treatment path possible based on their own specific need. Moving our clients through this model to completion successfully is our goal each and every single day.
Cliffside Malibu’s policy is to ensure that all people who choose treatment with us receives the best care possible. We strive to provide a continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment, and outpatient services. Our program includes not only evidence-based behavioral therapy but family therapy and holistic therapy, as well. Whether an individual is suffering from substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction, our programs are designed and structured to be a supportive environment in order to maintain sobriety.
In addition to world-class treatment, Cliffside Malibu offers luxury accommodations, a serene environment, five-star dining, and plentiful amenities. We understand that addiction treatment is a rigorous process. Therefore, we provide for your comfort and relaxation at every turn, allowing you to rejuvenate, to meet the demands of treatment with your greatest energy and attention.
For more information on Cliffside Malibu, visit cliffsidemalibu.com