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Do Gateway Drugs Lead to Harder Drugs?

Our country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Regardless of their age, race, or income level, people across the nation are turning to this family of addictive, dangerous substances. And with this increase in use comes an increase in heroin-related overdoses. In 2017 alone, over 15,000 Americans died as a result of a heroin overdose. In attributing blame, many people bring up “gateway drugs,” substances that give way to the use of harder drugs like heroin. 

Is “gateway drugs” an antiquated term, or is it more relevant than ever? We discuss this and more below. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t allow a painful situation to become worse by failing to seek addiction treatment in Tampa. The caring professionals at Phoenix House Florida are always standing by. 

A Slippery Slope 

For years, educators have stressed the dangers of gateway drugs. Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco products were regularly lambasted in public awareness campaigns. While these products may not be as sinister as the anti-drug commercials of decades past would have you believe, they can nonetheless lead to illicit substance use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports on the following factors that increase an individual’s risk of becoming addicted to heroin: 

  • Alcohol: 2x more likely to be addicted to heroin 
  • Marijuana: 3x more likely to be addicted to heroin
  • Cocaine: 15x more likely to be addicted to heroin
  • Prescription Opioids: 40x more likely to be addicted to heroin 

These numbers are incredibly eye-opening, especially for those currently taking prescription opioid medications. The unfortunate reality is that medical providers are handing out far more pills than needed, leaving people reliant on drugs, such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and hydrocodone, to counter pain symptoms. Once a prescription ends, these individuals are left without recourse and subsequently turn to a highly addictive alternative: heroin. 

Rewiring Your Brain

The National Institute of Drug Abuse states: “As with other drugs, repeated use of cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems, which may lead to addiction.” It’s not that alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine come with a free coupon for heroin. It’s that these drugs are training you to chase a high that you’ll never again experience. Alcohol and marijuana may not drastically increase your risk of heroin addiction, but they can lead to cocaine use and the eventual use of heroin. Their widespread acceptance in our culture only makes fighting drug addiction that much harder. 

Fighting Addiction

Whether you’re encountering peer pressure, attending a party, or seeking pain relief, it’s all too easy to encounter a situation where your resolve is tested. Alcohol and marijuana may not be gateway drugs in the traditional sense, but they can nonetheless lead to the use of harder substances. 

Fighting addiction may not be easy, but it’s not something you have to face alone. At Phoenix House Florida, we provide assistance to patients who are struggling with substance use disorders. If you or someone you know is in need of drug rehab in Tampa, request an appointment at our facility. We’re here for anyone seeking relief from alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or heroin addiction. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, speak with a treatment specialist about addiction treatment in Tampa. To schedule a consultation with Phoenix House Florida, please request an appointment today.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Phoenix House Florida website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services provided by Phoenix House Florida or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Phoenix House Florida. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Phoenix House Florida is not responsible nor do they approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website.

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How Can We Help?

At Our House

For some patients, stepping away from the buzz of everyday life is the only way to make a full recovery. Inpatient treatments help patients refocus their recovery efforts to achieve positive, long-lasting outcomes.

At Your House

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment must follow a continuum of care that starts with a thorough needs assessment and ends with recovery monitoring.

The Derek Jeter Center

The Derek Jeter Center Adolescent program in Brandon, FL provides comprehensive outpatient services that help families deal with teen substance use and related mental health conditions.