Pinnacle Peak Recovery, based in Scottsdale, AZ, has recently released a blog post on examples of gateway drugs. This is a actually a controversial topic, as there is no consensus yet about gateway drugs, which are typically alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and certain prescription drugs. In general, it is believed that these substances usually lead to later adolescent use of marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit drugs. Meanwhile, teenagers who received mental health counseling were found to be less likely to use drugs during older adolescence and during adulthood.
According to a spokesperson from Pinnacle Peak Recovery, “There is evidence that gateway drugs may be more of an issue when looking not at the substance or the individual, but rather at the age of someone when they began to use substances in general. That age often falls in adolescence, according to a 2016 article in Preventive Medicine Reports. A study cited in that article compared the use of substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs of people between ages 11-20 with their use when they were older, and found continued use of those particular drugs was “not consistent” in adulthood.”
Other factors that must be considered are family, environment, and mental health. The article’s authors based their findings on 14 years of research gathered by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult health data.
One reason the debate exists on what are gateway drugs is that there are multiple sources of statistics, such as longitudinal data from the 2016 National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders. One study used this data to determine whether marijuana use increases the onset of alcohol use disorder (AUD).
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines AUD as a chronic brain disorder in which problem drinking becomes severe. These somewhat non-specific terms might be more recognizable for those who suffer from AUD or a loved one does. Job loss, isolation, financial problems, family issues, and legal woes are all hallmark signs that someone’s continuous use of alcohol has disrupted their life.
Meanwhile, a study concluded that “cannabis use is associated with increased risk of AUD onset and persistence over the course of three years among U.S. adults.” However, additional factors need to be considered to obtain the bigger picture as a person initially used one drug and potentially another. There have been contradictory reports because of the controls of a study must be conducted under, which often isolate the use of one specific substance. Adding family, environment, mental health, and current substance use can impact study findings.
What is important to remember is that drug used does not occur in a vacuum. That is, if a person is drinking alcohol and then starts using marijuana, it’s typical that the person might still drink beer when out to dinner and then come home to use marijuana.
There is also the possibility that a loved one uses marijuana to achieve some calm but has moved to heroin for a “daytime boost.” The use of multiple substances is known as polydrug use. For this, there is some evidence to support the theory that the use of one drug may increase someone’s likelihood to try another.
This concept was highlighted in a 2020 Frontiers in Neuroscience article, “One Is Not Enough: Understanding and Modeling Polysubstance Use.” The four authors, lead by Dr. Elizabeth A. Crummy, also highlight the importance of a treatment center being fully aware of the scope of all substances a person may use so they can receive effective treatment.
Indeed, it was found that 11.3 percent of people diagnosed with a substance use disorder (SUD) have concurrent alcohol and illicit drug use disorders. In addition, having a SUD with one substance increases susceptibility to developing dependence on additional substances.
Those who are interested in learning more about gateway drugs can check out the Pinnacle Peak Recovery website or contact them on the phone or through email.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]
Pinnacle Peak Recovery is a residential and intensive outpatient addiction treatment facility located in Scottsdale, Arizona. We offer nationally recognized, evidence-based treatment options for those needing drug rehab services.
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