Substance abuse and addiction impact millions of people in the United States. Drug and alcohol abuse can lead to severe medical and mental health conditions, the loss of relationships, and serious social harm. People must take steps to avoid substance abuse or seek treatment if they have developed an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Understanding the root causes of addiction can help you avoid substance abuse or identify it and take steps to address the condition.
Medical and addiction experts have warned of the dangers of “gateway drugs” for decades. Some substances are believed to increase a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction later in life. While there is some controversy surrounding the idea of gateway drugs, it’s essential to understand this idea so you can make informed choices about your substance use and take steps to treat addiction, if necessary.
Alcohol is part of American culture. The majority of Americans report drinking alcohol from time to time, and many drink alcoholic beverages regularly.
Many might wonder, is alcohol a gateway drug? We will explore the connection between alcohol use and addiction, including steps to take if you need treatment. Contact the Moving Mountains Recovery staff today for more information about starting alcoholism treatment.
What is a Gateway Drug?
The gateway drug theory suggests that using certain drugs–specifically alcohol, cannabis, or tobacco–makes it more likely that a person will use harder, illicit drugs later in life. The theory suggests limiting teens’ exposure to these substances may reduce overall substance abuse.
The term “gateway” is meant to describe a gate being opened up into new areas of substance use and abuse. Supporters of the gateway drug theory believe that alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use may usher people toward the use of harder drugs. Some experts dismiss the idea of “gateway drugs” and believe that some people are simply more likely to experiment with all drugs and alcohol. Marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco are easy to find in the United States, and most adults in the country report having tried or used at least one of these substances in their lifetime.
The U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health released the findings from recent research that showed a possible connection between using alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana and later opioid abuse. They found that 12% of survey participants were actively abusing opioids. Of these:
- 57% had a history of alcohol abuse (men only)
- 56% had smoked cigarettes (men only)
- 34% had used marijuana (men and women)
The opioid abuse crisis impacts individuals, families, and communities. It is essential to explore the potential connection between these gateway drugs and focus on preventing substance abuse whenever possible.
Is Alcohol a Gateway Drug?
A significant study completed by the U.S. Longitudinal Study of Adolescents to Adults found that alcohol seems to play a role in later illicit drug use. The study tracked adolescents for 14 years and examined their behaviors into early adulthood. The research showed that early alcohol use contributed to illegal drug use later in adolescence but not into adulthood.
No clear research shows that alcohol use leads directly to illicit drug use. Substance abuse and addiction are complex conditions with many deep roots in a person’s genetics, environment, and behaviors. If you wonder, ‘Is alcohol a gateway drug?’, you may want to consult an addiction expert or medical professional for guidance. Understanding possible connections and taking steps to limit your risk factors may help lower your chance of developing addiction later in life.
What Other Factors Contribute to Addiction?
Determining the cause of a person’s substance abuse or addiction can be very challenging. Medical and addiction specialists believe that certain risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of abusing drugs. These factors include:
- History of trauma
- Mental illness
- Type and method of drug use
Repeated exposure to drugs or alcohol, a parent with addiction, overwhelming stress or pain, and other real-life conditions can increase your odds of developing a problem with substance abuse.
What Should I Do if I Need Alcohol or Substance Abuse Treatment?
Comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment can address addiction’s physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects, regardless of its length or severity. Having the tools to manage stress, identify and heal trauma, and develop healthy habits can give people a fresh start after living with addiction.
Substance abuse treatment may begin with a medically-supervised detox program followed by a comprehensive treatment program. Your treatment program will likely include:
- Group therapy
- Individual counseling
- Mental health care
- Medical treatment
- Holistic therapies like exercise, nutrition counseling, mindfulness, and outdoor recreation
You will learn the skills you need to manage stress, follow a routine that supports overall health and wellness, and avoid relapse for life.
Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Today
At Moving Mountains Recovery, we understand the seriousness of alcohol addiction, especially since it is the most common addiction that our clients struggle with. The objective at Moving Mountains is to help clients recover in a safe and comfortable environment, with an abundance of peer and clinical support. We have therapies available to empower clients through their own recovery while uncovering their passion in life without the use of drugs or alcohol.
For more information about gateway drugs or substance abuse treatment, contact the Moving Mountains Recovery staff today.