Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug to Harder Substances?

A woman wondering is marijuana a gateway drug?

For many years, there has been a division about the long- and short-term effects of marijuana. Many people argue that marijuana is safe because the withdrawals are not as intense as they are with other substances. There is also a misconception that marijuana is not addictive. However, this is not the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana regularly will become addicted. They also report that for those who start using before the age of 18, approximately 1 in 6 become addicted. With numbers like these attached to marijuana use, it begs the question: is marijuana a gateway drug to harder substances? A major concern has always been that marijuana would lead to the use of harder drugs and drug use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana is “likely to precede use of other licit and illicit substances.” So, why is this?

Why is Marijuana Considered a Gateway Drug?

There are a few different schools of thought as to why marijuana is considered a gateway drug to other, harder substances. One reason is that it is highly accessible. So, if someone has used a less accessible drug, such as cocaine or heroin, it is more likely that they’ve used marijuana as well at some point. Another theory as to why this could be a gateway drug is that trying other drugs may be an unintended side effect. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the University of Maryland, the dangers of smoking marijuana include the possibility that it has been laced with another, a more dangerous substance such as cocaine, crack, PCP, or even embalming fluid. Smoking marijuana laced with embalming fluid or formaldehyde has effects similar to marijuana laced with PCP, which is a drug that causes hallucinations, euphoria, and panic or rage. When marijuana is laced with such additives, it’s in the hope that users will think it’s simply THC and come back for more.

What Happens If You Move On to Harder Drugs?

If marijuana is considered a gateway drug, that means it has the potential to influence people to experiment with other drugs, which also increases the risk of addiction. One harder substance in particular that marijuana has been proven to lead to is heroin. According to the CDC, those who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin and nearly all those who use heroin have used at least one other drug. With the country experiencing a serious opioid epidemic, it’s important to understand what this really means. Since marijuana addicts are more likely to move on to heroin, here are a few quick facts you need to know about this deadly drug:

  • Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal opioid drug
  • Use has more than doubled among adults ages 18-25 in the past decade
  • Heroin-related overdoses resulting in death have nearly quadrupled
  • Most heroin users have used at least three other drugs
  • 45% of users were addicted to prescription opioid painkillers

With heroin addiction on the rise, as well as other substances, you may be wondering what signs and symptoms you need to be looking for.

Symptoms of Addiction

While everyone is different, there are some universal signs of substance abuse addiction. When it comes to hard substances, there are specific symptoms to look for. These include:

  • Flushed skin
  • Small pupils and watery eyes
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Secretive behavior
  • Changes in appetite
  • A noticeable change in behavior

 These symptoms may vary from person to person, but these are a few things you can look out for if you’re concerned for a friend or loved one.

Withdrawal Symptoms

If an addict tries to stop, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal which is something else you should look out for. Again, these can be different for every person, but can include: 

  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Disruptive sleep patterns
  • Severe headaches
  • Irritability
  • Less productivity
  • Relationship problems
  • Mental and physical health issues

With both of these types of symptoms in mind, it’s important to know when to seek help for either yourself or a loved one. An option to combat addiction is by enrolling in an inpatient drug treatment center.

How Can an Inpatient Drug Treatment Center Help?

Patients in group at an inpatient drug treatment center

Battling addiction is not something anyone should have to do alone. This is where a treatment center can step in and help. With inpatient drug treatment, you can really get to the root of the problem and relationship with drugs that is causing the addiction. Innovative and proven treatments, such as a complete addiction assessment, are an excellent way to pinpoint the problem and begin working towards recovery. Some treatment methods that are utilized when treating drug addiction include:

  • Twelve-Step Program: This program is based on a specific set of 12 principles that outline a course of action for a successful recovery. This has been utilized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but has been found to be beneficial for treating a variety of addictions. 
  • SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery Treatment: This method includes a 4-Point Program that uses different tools and techniques to overcome addiction. Each point in the program encompasses different areas of addiction and gives specific tools to handle different areas of life with addiction. 
  • Refuge Recovery Treatment: This practice is a treatment, a set of tools, process, and a path to healing addiction, as well as alleviating suffering brought on by addiction. The core teachings of Buddhism are what inspired and drive this addiction recovery treatment.

With these inclusive options, overcoming addiction becomes a viable option.

 So, What’s the Answer to “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug to Harder Substances?”

 The answer is yes and no, and somewhere in between. There are a lot of factors when it comes to marijuana being a gateway drug, but the most important aspect to remember is that drug addiction is a serious disease. However, it can be overcome. At Corner Canyon Health Centers, we are here to help. If you or a loved one is seeking treatment, call us today.