The Most Common ‘Gateway Drugs’

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It’s highly uncommon for heroin or cocaine to be a person’s first encounter with drugs. What usually happens is that people start experimenting with the so-called gateway drugs. These drugs are widely available, which is why most people will use them at least once in their lifetime. The truth is that, if used in moderation, some of these drugs can be used safely. However, a person can never know when their seemingly innocent experiment with drugs can turn into an addiction. That’s why we here at Bright Futures Treatment Center advise that you be on the safe side and avoid using any drugs. Here’s everything you need to know about the topic.

What are gateway drugs?

Most people have heard of the term hard drugs. Likewise, they know that these drugs include heroin and cocaine, among other substances. But what category do all the other substances fall into? Well, chances are that most of them fall into the category of gateway drugs. These drugs are very often the bridge between a substance-free life and a substance use disorder. Most people perceive them as safe, as they don’t always cause addiction. However, they definitely have an addictive potential, which is why many individuals will find themselves searching for an Inpatient rehab facility in Florida after using them for quite some time.

A person writing something in a notebook.
Unless you want to find yourself searching for treatment centers, it would be best to avoid gateway drugs.

As you are about to see, chances are that you have used these drugs at least once before. Likewise, it’s important to mention that not everyone will develop a substance use disorder after trying them out a few times. Unfortunately, you can never know whether you have a predisposition to addiction, which is why it would be best to stay away from any drugs if possible.

How do these drugs result in substance use disorder?

Truth be told, these drugs aren’t always directly responsible for addiction. However, they oftentimes give a person the idea that trying out harder drugs would be interesting. If someone has been using a substance for a while and they haven’t developed an addiction, that situation alone might make them believe that trying out different types of drugs would be safe. And that’s usually when everything will start to spiral out of control. If you are currently using a gateway drug, and you have been doing so for a while, it would be wise to check out Outpatient programs in Florida near you. If you let the situation go unchecked, you might have to search for an Inpatient facility soon enough.

What are the most common gateway drugs?

Our society has enabled four drugs to be widely available to the general public – alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and prescription drugs. We know what you must be thinking – who here hasn’t tried a drop of alcohol? That’s why we’ve said that these drugs don’t always lead to addiction. But all you have to do is look into an alcohol treatment facility in Boynton Beach to see that these can, indeed, turn into a significant problem.

Bottles of alcohol - one of the most common gateway drugs.
Alcohol is a gateway drug that is most often used, as it can be found in many establishments.


When it comes to the substances which are most often consumed, alcohol has to be the one that takes the lead. Whether it’s during a party, after work, or on a Friday night, almost every person will rely on alcohol to relax and unwind. Likewise, teenagers and young adults are most likely to experiment with alcohol first and foremost, after which they will move on to harder drugs. In fact, some studies have shown that as much as 54% of high school seniors have reported using alcohol as their first substance, many of which have moved on to different drugs later on. The problem with alcohol consumption is that it’s seen as a socially acceptable occurrence.

If left unchecked, alcohol consumption can turn into a serious addiction. Alcoholism comes with many challenges, and it can be detrimental for the one struggling with it, as well as their family members. Likewise, alcoholism can lead to co-occurring addictions, as it’s not unlikely for a person to use alcohol and cocaine or heroin at the same time. As an experienced heroin rehab facility in Florida, we have first-hand experience and knowledge about this.

Thus, no matter how innocent it might seem, alcohol consumption can lead to some major problems. So what can you do about it? For starters, you can place some limits and restrictions on yourself. For example, you can allow yourself to have a drink or two once or twice a week, and strictly monitor how much alcohol you consume. You don’t want to go so overboard that you start having blackouts and memory gaps. Likewise, you can pay close attention to how you feel, act, and react when drinking. If you notice that you are craving alcohol more than ever and your behavior starts to change, it would be a good idea to stop and seek help. This is how an addiction is formed.


When it comes to the most socially-acceptable drugs, nicotine has to take the lead. This substance is legal in most countries, and it is available to all people who are of age. Most often, nicotine is found in cigarettes, but the latest technologies are making it available in other forms, as well. E-cigarettes and vape products have greatly substituted the overall cigarette use, which has actually gone down in recent years. Luckily, more studies are being conducted about the detrimental effects of nicotine on a person’s health. It is now known that smoking can cause a wide array of problems, and it is even one of the leading causes of death in the United States of America.

A woman holding a cigarette and smoking.
Cigarettes are not the only products that contain nicotine.

If you know anyone who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day (and we are sure that you do), then you most likely understand how addictive nicotine is. As a part of a user’s everyday routine, they make it next to impossible for a person to give them up. The problem with nicotine, apart from the fact that it’s addictive and detrimental, is that it leads to many harder drugs. This is particularly true if a person starts smoking at a young age, which many adolescents do. So how to make sure that you don’t struggle with the same problem?

For starters, it’s very important to educate your children about peer pressure. Since most people start smoking at a young age, the right prevention begins with the sufficient education. Teaching kids about all the dangers of smoking will make them think twice about giving in to their peers. Of course, you can’t monitor someone 24/7. So if your child decides to start smoking at some point, it won’t be your fault. But if you do everything in your power as a parent, you might be able to influence whether or not they take up this unhealthy habit.


Marijuana is one of the most controversial gateway drugs in the world. There’s plenty of debate about whether marijuana can cause addiction and how problematic it can be for one’s overall health. The truth is that there is sufficient evidence for both claims. Many times, people who use marijuana recreationally will not fall into the temptation of experimenting with harder drugs. Likewise, they will see marijuana only as a temporary enjoyment and once the feelings of novelty and excitement wear off, they will stop experimenting with it altogether.

A close-up of marijuana.
Marijuana used for recreational purposes should not be mixed with the one used in medicine.

However, there are also just as many cases where marijuana use will lead to harder and more dangerous drugs. Just ask any of the people who are currently in heroin or crack cocaine rehab in Palm Beach, and they will tell you that most of them have begun using marijuana before any of the harder drugs. And while marijuana isn’t as addictive as heroin, meth, or cocaine, it can definitely have a person addicted after a certain amount of time. That’s why marijuana is still illegal in most countries.

To avoid any potential problems that come with marijuana use, it would be best to avoid this substance altogether. However, if you have fallen into temptation, there’s no reason to despair just yet. You can still get out of it trouble-free if you seek help in due time. Apart from seeking help in our rehab facility, you can look for other addiction centers near you. The good thing about marijuana dependence is that it oftentimes entails outpatient treatment only. Of course, if your treatment provider assesses that it would be better to spend some time in a rehab facility, then you should adhere to their advice.

Prescription drugs

The fourth group of the most common gateway drugs is this one. Sometimes, prescription drugs cannot be avoided. As the name itself suggests, they are oftentimes given by doctors and are used to treat different conditions. They can aid different conditions and can lessen the pains and aches. There are many drugs that are prescribed by doctors for conditions such as ADHD and ADD, and they include:

  • Adderall
  • Oxycodone
  • Vicodin
  • Xanax
  • Fentanyl
Medication on a pink surface.
In many situations, prescription drugs are necessary and vital. But be careful how you use them.

If and when used responsibly, these drugs are absolute life savers. However, the problem begins once you start abusing these medications and disregarding your doctor’s instructions. It’s always important to keep in mind that these medications are highly addictive. Thus, their prolonged use can lead to severe addiction, and it can open up the path to harder drugs. That’s how many individuals who are now in our Oxycodone rehab center in FL have started.

Thus, we believe that it is very important to monitor yourself and be honest about your prescription drug use. If you notice that you are finding it next to impossible to function without these medications, we suggest that you turn to a professional for assistance. Go back to your doctor and ask if you can discontinue the use of the drug in question. Many times, they can substitute a drug with a different one and prevent addiction that way. Also, if they believe that you are in greater danger of addiction, they will not prescribe these addictive drugs in the first place. That’s why it’s important that you are honest with your healthcare provider in the first place.

Special note about prescription drugs

Prescription drugs are one of the most commonly misused groups of drugs. Because they can only be gotten via a prescription, people will oftentimes find a way to steal them. Thus, if you have received a prescription for these drugs, it’s up to you to take good care of your medication. What you don’t want to do is leave it in a very visible and easily accessible place. This is particularly important to remember if one of your family members has been struggling with addiction in the past. If someone has left an Adderall addiction center in Boynton Beach and you leave a bottle in front of them, they will most likely give in to temptation.

A pile of medications.
It is your responsibility to care for your medications and keep them in a secure place.

What can be done to prevent addiction in an individual?

Many studies have been conducted on the topic and they all seem to point to the same thing – the younger someone is, the more likely they are to get addicted to hard drugs. That’s why the work on preventing addiction begins early on, and it should happen in a person’s teen years. In fact, if you have a pre-teen, now might be the right time to start talking to them about addiction and all the drugs that are available on the market. Children are very easily influenced, and they give in to peer pressure more often than not. Teaching them how important it is to say no to drugs is going to be the best thing you can do for them.

Of course, since you are dealing with a child, it’s going to be important to choose your words carefully. Children are very easily impacted, so you want to choose a manner of speaking that will be assertive but not overpowering. It’s definitely a good idea to do some research on the topic before conducting this talk. Likewise, it definitely doesn’t hurt to consult a professional if you want to go one step further.

And if you are already an adult who is trying to prevent an addiction from developing, you can for starters say no to any addictive drug. But if you have already started to experiment with these drugs and you don’t feel like you can stop on your own, then we suggest you find a rehab center in your area. Your other option is to start attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Anything that will help you kick your habit and prevent it from turning into addiction is going to be of great help.

Is it possible to use gateway drugs responsibly?

We can’t lie to you – there are many people who are able to use these drugs without ever developing an addiction. Just take a look at the number of people who drink and smoke and yet have full control over their habits. The first thing you need in order to use these drugs responsibly is a limit. For example, knowing how much you can drink without getting drunk is going to be essential for preventing problems. Likewise, carefully monitoring yourself for the first signs of trouble is also going to be essential. If at any point you start noticing that you are becoming dependent on these substances, it’s advisable to discontinue their use right away.

A group of people having a toast.
Social drinkers might be able to use gateway drugs without getting into trouble.

If you have a friend or a family member who you know runs a particular risk of addiction, it’s essential that you pay close attention to their behavior. Noticing a change in their demeanor or physical appearance is a cause for concern. In such a situation, it would be advisable to hold an intervention for them – or have a professional do it. The goal is to show them that they are stepping into dangerous territory and that they need to dial it down. Because once an addiction fully develops, it’s too late to get away with less intrusive methods. Once addicted, people usually need to begin with a Medically-Assisted Treatment in FL and then work their way to other programs.

When should you refrain from using these drugs?

While some people could get away with safely using gateway drugs, other individuals don’t have that option. How can you tell which group of people you belong to? Well, you can do it by taking a look at your history. Have you ever been addicted to any drugs in the past? If you have a history of drug use and addiction, then the last thing you should do is take an unnecessary risk. Secondly, it’s important to examine your upbringing and background.

If you grew up in a household where one or two parents were struggling with addiction, then you are very likely to be pre-disposed to it yourself. There’s evidence that supports the claim that addiction can be hereditary. That is why it’s important to be careful if you know you could have inherited it. Secondly, the environment in which a child with parents who were addicts grew up is very conducive to their own future addiction. You most likely know of stories where two kids grew up in the same household. One of them turned to addiction while the other one never tried any substances.

It’s true that every person is different. Thus, these drugs will inevitably have a different effect on everyone. However, numerous studies are there to show that people with a problematic upbringing run a higher risk of addiction. But knowing this is a good thing – it gives you enough time and space to do something about it. Being aware of the problem is half the job done.

A mother and daughter on the beach.
Your upbringing can decide whether you can use gateway drugs safely.

It’s essential to take gateway drugs seriously

Unfortunately, we’ve seen people not take these drugs seriously one too many times. We can’t deny the fact that many people are using these drugs nowadays. In fact, some of them aren’t even considered drugs, as alcohol and nicotine are completely legal. But just because they are legal and easy to obtain doesn’t mean that they won’t be detrimental to your health. Truth be told, if you use them correctly, you could get away with experimenting from time to time. The tricky part is knowing how and when to stop.

If you are sure that you can take all the necessary precautions, then using gateway drugs every now and then can be acceptable. However, if you want to stay on the safe side, you should stay away from them completely. Or you should at least have a dedicated person who will be by your side and monitor your use of these drugs. It’s important for this person to be someone you trust. They need to be able to stop you and help you understand that you are getting out of control.

Of course, if you ever need help for an addiction that seems to be spiraling out of control, you can always contact us. Our entire team is here to be of assistance to you, so don’t hesitate to reach out.


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