The theory that drugs can be put into a type of hierarchy and that one drug that is lower on this hierarchy can act as a "gateway" to a drug that is higher up has been postulated for decades. So-called gateway drugs including substances like tobacco, alcohol and marijuana are thought to be an immediate stepping stone to further drugs use of harder substances like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. However, some addiction specialists have questioned the validity of this statement in light of an apparent connection between other types of addiction – like computer addiction, sex addiction and gambling, with addiction to illicit drugs. This could indicate that instead of gateway drugs being an issue, the real problem could be gateway addictions. Whatever the case may be, recognizing that one lesser substance or behavior can lead to more severe behaviors is important because it means that with proper education these gateway phenomena can be reduced or eliminated.

Perhaps the most compelling case for gateway drugs is the idea that alcohol and tobacco are merely "gateways" to other substances because they are readily available, legal in most cases and can be obtained anywhere. However, according to Drug Watch International; ". . . if alcohol and tobacco were new products seeking FDA clearance today, each would likely be rejected as hazardous and addictive." But because these substances are currently legal, they are seen as lower on the hierarchy than drugs like cocaine, despite the fact that mountains of evidence exist that prove alcohol and tobacco related issues are two of the biggest public health threats facing this country today. Therefore, assuming that one substance is lesser than another simply because it can be purchases legitimately is not only illogical, it's irresponsible.

The general idea of the gateway theory is that if a person uses substances like tobacco or marijuana, they will naturally progress to more dangerous drugs like crack. This theory is seriously flawed. For instance, consider the child who is introduced to basic English horseback riding at a young age. If this child enjoys riding they will trigger the reward and pleasure center in their brain, which will in turn lead to a desire to recreate these pleasurable feelings. The child may then become involved in jumping horses, racing, and even taking part in steeplechase events. According to the gateway theory, this means that simply introducing a child to basic horseback riding is a gateway to activities that are considered more dangerous. This is a preposterous theory that simply doesn't work.

However, there is some credence to the idea of gateway addictions – a gateway where the particular substances are taken out of the equation and addictive behavior factored in instead. Because the process of addiction is the same neurologically regardless of exactly what the person is addicted to, then in theory being addicted to gambling could be a gateway to addiction to prescription medications, or addiction to cocaine could be a gateway to sex addiction. The more we start to swap out substances and activities as "gateways," the more ridiculous this claim becomes.

Addiction is an individual process that is different for everyone. Many people experiment with or regularly use marijuana without ever progressing to harder drugs, and some people start right out using harder drugs. This means that there is no real gateway but addiction itself. But while there might not be a perceived danger in being addicted to certain activities or even "lesser" substances, there is a real danger in being addicted to fast-damaging substances like meth and crack. If you or someone you love is living through the nightmare of a drug problem, you don't have to watch in helpless horror any longer. Pick up the phone now or click the links below to get an immediate private consult.

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Author's Bio: 

Ron has been professionally writing for the web for nearly 15 years and has evolved a style guaranteed to get results.