What is a gateway drug?

Updated: 4/27/2022
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โˆ™ 12y ago

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The term "gateway drug" is used to describe any drug that a non drug-user might try out. Often a gateway drug is not perceived to be as potent, harmful or addictive, giving the potential user the feeling that "it can't hurt me". The psychology of such behavior is that once you try something like that, you tend to want more, and since gateway drugs lower inhibitions just like their more powerful addictive drugs, often people will try "something else" while they are in the middle of experimentation with gateway drugs.

The term is used because the drugs act as a "gateway" to the use of other drugs.


There is no such thing as a gateway drug. People say that marijuana (or alcohol) is a gateway drug, because the vast majority of people who are addicted to hard drugs (like heroin, cocaine, or speed) begin their drug use with marijuana. However, this does not take into account that countless people begin their drug use with marijuana, but never use, or become addicted to, hard drugs.

Have you ever heard the saying, "All poodles are dogs, but not all dogs are poodles?" In other words, yes, most drug addicts begin their drug use with marijuana, but that doesn't mean that everyone who uses marijuana will become a drug addict. Saying that everyone who uses marijuana will become a drug addict is like saying all dogs are poodles.

The truth is that marijuana is the least harmful drug you can use. It is virtually impossible to overdose on it -- the only marijuana death I have ever heard of was a five year-old girl who died after eating a pound (yes, a pound) of marijuana that her mother had baked into some brownies. It is virtually impossible to die from smoking or ingesting marijuana, not counting lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases.

Because it is the least harmful drug you can use, and because it is the most commonly used drug (besides alcohol), it is usually the first drug people try when they begin experimenting with drugs. Some of them go on to be drug addicts, but the majority don't. The majority just stick to marijuana, and never try anything else (or, try harder drugs, but don't get addicted to them).

Additionally, it is very hard for a non-drug user to find out where to buy hard drugs like heroin, cocaine, or speed. You have to know people, in order to be given the number of a drug dealer. So, a non-drug user will have a very hard time beginning his drug use with, say, heroin, because he won't be able to find a dealer who sells it. But since so many people smoke weed, it's relatively easy to get in touch with people who smoke it, and who know where to buy it. And once you've started hanging around people who smoke pot, eventually you're going to meet someone who knows where to get harder drugs. No one is going to give you the number of a heroin dealer, unless they trust you, and believe you're not a police officer. And no one is going to trust you, and believe you're not a police officer, unless you smoke marijuana and hang out with other people who smoke it.

For example, let's say that 100 teenagers tried marijuana for the first time today. In five years, 10 of them (10%) will be heroin, cocaine, or speed addicts. The other 90 (90%) continue to smoke pot (or don't), but never become addicted to hard drugs. If you look only at the 10 who became drug addicts, you might say, "Hey, look, all these drug addicts began their drug use with marijuana. That must mean that marijuana use leads to heroin/cocaine/speed addiction!" No, it doesn't. Out of those 100 teenagers, 90 of them did not become drug addicts just because they used marijuana.

Therefore, the theory of "gateway" drugs is completely, absolutely, 100% false.


Note that there are conflicting attitudes about "gateway drugs".

As a former prison counselor, I can assure you that there ARE, in fact, drugs which are considered "gateway drugs".

Many drug users will consider marijuana to be "safe", because of what they consider to be minimal negative effects.

However, most serious drug users who evolve into serious criminals also make the claim that that there is no such thing as a gateway drug.

The inmates who made that claim were the ones who were back in prison... either that or overdosed.

And by the way, 10% is pretty bad odds for something that will destroy your life.

ADDITIONAL CLARIFICATION: Yes, this is exactly what I'm talking about. What you are saying is the equivalent of saying that all dogs are poodles. Since you work as a prison counselor, you only come into contact with the people who did become drug addicts after using marijuana. You never meet the people who use marijuana but don't become addicts, because they don't wind up in jail.

So, if you look ONLY at the prison inmates who became addicts, you might say, "Hey, look, all these addicts began their drug use with marijuana! That must mean that marijuana leads to addiction to hard drugs!" Since you never meet the marijuana users who don't become addicts, to you it seems as though all marijuana users become addicts.

I mean, it just makes no logical sense. If you ONLY counsel prison inmates, then it makes no sense to say, "All the people I know who smoke weed are prison inmates." Well, of course they are! If you spent your life working at a liberal arts college like Brown or Sarah Lawrence, you would only meet pot-smokers who aren't criminals.

And seriously: "As a former prison counselor, I can assure you that there ARE, in fact, drugs which are considered "gateway drugs." Oh, okay. So your argument is, "It's true because some people say so." Just like all the rest of the arguments saying that marijuana is a gateway drug, this is not logical.

The fact is, over 100 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once (just Google, "100 million Americans have smoked marijuana"). An estimated 22 million Americans have a drug or alcohol problem (again, Google "22 million Americans are alcoholics or addicts").

Now, the population of the U.S. is now 305 million (as of 2009). So, that means 32.7% of Americans have tried pot at least once, and 7.2% of Americans are alcoholics or drug addicts. If even half the people who tried pot became drug addicts, it would mean that 16.4% of Americans are alcoholics or drug addicts. But that's not the case. The actual amount of drug addicts in the U.S. is 7.2% -- less than half of 16.4%.

Furthermore, plenty of alcoholics or addicts do NOT begin their drug use with marijuana. Many begin their drug use with alcohol instead. For example, I am a recovering addict and alcoholic, and alcohol was the first drug I did. I drank for a whole year before I tried pot for the first time.

I mean, if 90% of drug addicts chew gum, would you conclude that gum is a gateway drug? If 90% of drug addicts have seen the movie Forrest Gump, would you conclude that Forrest Gump is a gateway drug? And if 90% of drug addicts sleep at night, would you conclude that sleeping at night causes drug addiction? The fact that most drug addicts smoke pot before becoming addicted to harder drugs is a CORRELATION, not a cause-and-effect.

Also misguided is this claim: "And by the way, 10% is pretty bad odds for something that will destroy your life." This makes no sense. Drug addictions don't happen by chance. It's not like winning the lottery. It doesn't just happen to someone. It's a choice. You choose to use drugs. It's not like if you smoke pot, you all of a sudden have a 10% chance of becoming an addict. Becoming an addict has nothing to do with "pretty bad odds."

Addicts are not the victims of their own disease. They are the perpetrators of their disease. Is there some kind of magical property to marijuana? Does it somehow magically whisper to the user, "Use heroin! Use cocaine!" No. Pot is just a plant. It doesn't MAKE anybody do anything. It's all up to the user. We have a term for that, actually: it's called "free will." The idea that marijuana somehow "makes" you do harder drugs flies in the face of everything we know and believe about free will.

MORE CLARIFICATION: Gateway drugs is a false term, it might as well be Pie-in-the-sky logic. Okay so lets say I never smoked marijuana, never once even tried it, but I took a hit of extacy and got addicted? What then? Where is this epic failure in my life that opened this "gateway" to other drugs? No where because there isn't one. What if I eat skittles every single day without fail, then one day I come across a line of coke, or a syringe of heroin, and I take it, was it SKITTLES that opened the "gateway?" Its hilarious the things we will place blame on for our mistakes, there is a gateway to other drugs, but its not marijuana nor any other drugs, the "gateway" to drugs is as simple as a choice, your human and you make the choice of either doing it or not, marijuana, alcohol or anything else for that matter has never forced anyone into anything, influenced, perhaps, but theres no gun to your head your in control of your own choices. And you tell your prison inmates those things that way they wont get depressed when they realize they screwed there own lives over by their choices and start killing themselves, grow up, narrow-minded biased people.

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โˆ™ 12y ago
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โˆ™ 11y ago

A gateway drug is a drug that increases your likeliness of starting with heavier drugs. Marijuana has been stamped as a gateway drug for a long time. Even though there are little conclusive evidence than Marijuana is a gateway drug, the fear is that people who tries it will move on to heavier drugs either because Marijuana itself makes the body crave for other or stronger sensations, that the mind gets a taste of what is out there and wants to experiment, or that people who start smoking marijuana will get into a social environment where the access to other drugs are better.

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