Beds available now! Call for same-day admission.

Common Gateway Drugs

Last Updated: November 10, 2022

Jump to Section

What is a gateway drug? Is that concept even valid? Whether you are a parent of a teen in Ohio or you are worried about a friend or a family member, here is how you can understand and help manage addiction by learning more about the drugs that can provide a gateway into future drug use.

What is a Gateway Drug?

When teens or adults experiment with nicotine or alcohol or take extra prescription drugs, it might seem innocent. There will be no long-term problems that come from this, right? Wrong. According to, “gateway drugs are substances that, when consumed, give way to harder, more dangerous drugs.” While not everyone who explores alcohol or other legal drugs will move on to harder drugs like meth, heroin, and cocaine, an addiction and reliance of these legal or softer drugs can be a gateway into a serious addiction.

How Gateway Drugs Lay a Path for Increased Drug Use

Teens’ brains are still developing, so for teens, in particular, drug use can be a serious problem. This is because their brains are getting used to regulating dopamine, and marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs increase dopamine. This is a pleasurable feeling, but relying on these drugs to lead to a dopamine high means that the brain could release less natural dopamine when these teens become adults. People can then become conditioned to look for drugs that lead to a stronger high, such as heroin. The brain also gets used to finding pleasure in substance use and is sensitized to using substances.

Not everyone who drinks alcohol or smokes will become addicted to harder drugs. However, using these drugs repeatedly, particularly at a young age, can lead to addiction, particularly in those people who are more genetically prone to addictive behavior. A person who had co-occurring disorders such as mental health problems could be more likely to turn to harder drugs to self-medicate, and those who have a challenging living environment could do the same. There are many different factors that influence drug addiction, and the presence of gateway drugs is just one of them.

Common Gateway Drugs in Ohio states that “national anti-drug programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) specifically outline the consequences of three potential gateway drugs: marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco.” With overdoses from opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil on the rise, it is important for teens, parents, and those who work with teens to be aware of the possibility that the use and addiction to softer drugs could potentially lead to the exploration of harder drugs. Since these harder drugs are very addictive, it’s easy for teens to start using them and then become addicted quickly, particularly in the absence of family or community support.

If you are looking for rehabilitation options for Ohio drug abuse, talk to us. At The Recovery Village Columbus, we know how to work with you to help you move from addiction to recovery. Contact us and learn about admission into our Ohio addiction treatment center today.


Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.