A man wondering, "What are gateway drugs?"

What Are Gateway Drugs?

While there is some controversy over how dangerous gateway drugs are, one thing is certain: Using them can increase the likelihood of experimenting with other, more potent drugs. What exactly are gateway drugs, and which are the most common to be aware of? Understanding what gateway drugs are and why they are dangerous can help you exercise caution if you choose to use them, whether legally or illicitly.

If you or a loved one has turned to addictive drugs after using gateway drugs, you can count on Promises Right Step Hill Country to help you overcome dependence and get your life back on track. Call us today at 1.844.675.1628 to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.

What Are Gateway Drugs?

Gateway drugs are substances that open the door to further and potentially more dangerous drug use. They are considered stepping stones toward experimentation with more potent substances. The primary concern with gateway drugs is that a person will not stop at that particular substance but will move on toward drugs that put them at increased risk.

The Most Common Gateway Drugs

While numerous substances could be classified as gateway drugs, some are more prevalent than others. A few of the most common gateway drugs are:


Alcohol is often the first substance a person experiments with due to its availability and acceptance in many cultures. Teens often have easy access to alcohol through older siblings or their parents. It can be challenging for parents to prevent their children from accessing their alcohol without avoiding having it in the house altogether.

For those who abstain from drinking until they reach the legal age of 21, alcohol is affordable and easy to obtain from liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. Some convenience stores and grocery stores also stock alcohol.

Drinking can lower inhibitions, and a person’s curiosity may arise toward trying other substances that induce an altered state.


Cigarettes and other tobacco products are frequently used by young individuals as these products can be even easier to access than alcohol. The legal age to purchase these products is 18, and many teens have older friends or siblings willing to buy tobacco products for them. Nicotine is highly addictive and can pave the way for other drug experimentation.


Although marijuana has been legalized in some areas, it is still widely considered a gateway drug due to its broad use among young people. The legality of the drug and easier access to it can normalize substance use and lead to potential experimentation with other, more potent drugs.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are considered gateway drugs because although many people first acquire them through a legal prescription for pain, insomnia, anxiety, or other valid medical conditions, these drugs can be highly addictive. Once a person becomes dependent on prescription medication, they may start to seek out other illicit substances for more intense effects.

The Dangers of Gateway Drugs

Some potential risks of using gateway drugs include:

  • Increased susceptibility to addiction – Drugs expose people to the rewarding effects of substance use, which may trigger curiosity and increase the likelihood of experimenting with other more addictive or dangerous drugs.
  • Vulnerability to physical, or mental health issues – Ongoing use of substances can lead to impaired cognitive function, liver, and cardiovascular damage, depression, and anxiety.
  • Problems at work, home, or school – Using drugs can interfere with your everyday life, taking priority over your usual responsibilities. This can lead to job loss, failing grades, and strained relationships.

Additionally, using gateway drugs can also cause financial or legal problems down the road. If you drive while impaired, are involved in an altercation, or are found to be under the influence while at your workplace, you could lose your income, get arrested, or lose your license, all of which can impact your financial security.

Start Your Recovery Today at Promises Right Step Hill Country with Addiction Treatment

While they may seem comparatively safe to other potent drugs, gateway drugs can lead to addiction. If you need help quitting drugs or alcohol, contact the compassionate team at Promises Right Step Hill Country at 1.844.675.1628. Our comprehensive addiction treatment plans consider the needs of the whole person, so you are set up for a healthy, happy recovery.

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