Drug abuse almost always starts small, with experimentation that leads to hardcore abuse. And many individuals struggling with opiate and opioid addiction started with substances like cannabis and nicotine. Gateway drugs like these are problematic and require high-quality therapy to manage appropriately.
Are Gateway Drugs Real? Yes, Says Studies
The gateway drug concept has been heavily debated over the years, with many stating that the idea is ridiculous. However, various studies have found that gateway drugs are a real thing. For example, substances like nicotine and marijuana have been shown to decrease natural dopamine production.
It specifically decreases dopamine reward center operation, particularly when individuals start abusing substances early in life. This early addiction behavior occurs because a child’s mind is more vulnerable and malleable than an adult’s.
This decrease makes a person more vulnerable to addiction later by preparing the brain for the flood of dopamine that other substances cause. In other words, marijuana and nicotine abuse deaden a person’s natural pleasure reactions, making the high from cocaine, opioids, and other substances feel much more heightened.
As a result, people are more likely to experiment with these substances and develop an addiction later in life. Even worse, these addictions are more likely to be hard to kick because the brain will have had more time to become used to them.
One study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that young people who experimented with or regularly used cannabis products were 104 times more likely to do substances like cocaine and opioids.
This heavy increase is not as potent in adults but is also possible if the abuse is high enough. And statistically, many people in drug rehab centers also abuse marijuana and nicotine products beyond their primary addiction. So what can be done to help minimize the danger of this problem?
The best way to minimize the unusual risk of gateway drugs is to simply never start abusing substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana. However, those who have already begun using these drugs and may feel compelled to try harder substances may want to visit an outpatient drug therapy program.
This option is smart because it can help manage a myriad of substance abuse issues by providing:
- Withdrawal help for those who feel physical addiction symptoms
- Counseling to address the underlying reasons why a person uses
- Behavioral help to steer them away from abusive behaviors
- Coping mechanisms that help guide people away from addictive behaviors
- Healthy living steps that also decrease addiction triggers
Education is essential when it comes to stopping drug abuse. Of course, nobody who abuses substances is unaware that they are harmful – but if they understand the true insidiousness of drug use, they are more likely to avoid harm in the future. Thankfully, many inpatient and outpatient drug therapy centers are available across the nation to provide help for those who need it the most.
Help is Available
Those suffering from the devastating impact of drug addiction or those worried about the dangers of gateway drug use must contact their insurance company, their general healthcare provider, and a drug therapy center to find a treatment option that makes the most sense for their body and mind.
Getting high-quality treatment will decrease a person’s urge to use, help walk them away from addiction, and teach them more about their mental and emotional help. Such information can be transformative and may provide the long-term support a person needs to stay healthy.
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