There are countless substances that a person could abuse, but many people consider the illegal street drugs to be the most lethal. Substances like heroin and cocaine have been the cause of countless overdose deaths in the last several decades, which doesn’t even account for the millions more who’ve become mere shadows of who they once were.
However, there’s a full spectrum of substances that, collectively, has rendered roughly ten percent of the American population completely dependent on continuous substance abuse. And while there’s been extensive research conducted on some of the causes and contributors to the development of alcoholism and drug addiction, we’ve only barely begun to scratch the surface.
In addition, to there being many substances to which a person can abuse, there are numerous reasons why a person might turn to alcohol or drug abuse. For instance, it’s been found that there’s a level of genetic contribution to the development of alcoholism or drug addiction, but the precise genes have yet to be identified.
Many people use alcohol and drug use as a means of coping with stress or intense emotion, becoming addicted as they continue using such a harmful coping mechanism. Additionally, there are environmental and social reasons why a person might turn to substance abuse as well.
With there being so many addictive substances and numerous reasons for using them, there’s also been a major interest in what could make a person susceptible to the development of an addiction. One concept that often comes up when it comes to being susceptible to addiction is the idea that a substance could be a gateway drug.
Which is the “Gateway Drug”: Marijuana or Alcohol?
When most people hear the term “gateway drug”, they often think of marijuana. Marijuana is widely considered to be the least severe of all mind-altering substances since a person using marijuana is very unlikely to ever overdose on the drug.
Additionally, the intoxication one gets from marijuana, or the “high”, isn’t quite as intense as most other substances. And with marijuana being milder than many other substances, it’s relatively common and tends to be one of the substances that adolescents and teens often use first when experimenting with substance abuse.
The idea behind the gateway drug concept is that those who begin experimenting with marijuana—such as teens and adolescents—become more likely to then try other substances that are more dangerous due to their having already experimented with alcohol with either no or very little negative repercussions. When those who experiment with marijuana move on to other substances, the marijuana is considered those individuals’ gateway drug.
The idea that marijuana is the primary gateway drug has been reinforced by the idea that 99 percent of illicit drug users report that marijuana was the first substance with which they experimented.
However, by the same logic, it’s likely that 99 percent of illicit drug users have consumed caffeine prior to their use of illicit substances. A number of recent studies have suggested that rather than marijuana, alcohol should actually be considered the main gateway drug.
In one particular study, a large group of high school students was surveyed as to which substances they’ve used and more of them had used alcohol than any other substance. And even those students who used other substances reported having almost always started with alcohol before moving on to marijuana and other mind-altering substances. Most surprisingly, of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana the statistics show the high school students were actually the least likely to experiment with marijuana for any other substances.
In other words, marijuana usually came after alcohol or other substances rather than being the actual gateway drug. The study also showed that the early adolescents begin to experiment with alcohol, the more likely he or she would be to move on to other substances.
Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Statistics
With alcohol being a legal substance, it’s actually very little surprise that alcohol, rather than marijuana, is the real gateway drug. Although the law states that only those aged 21 or older can legally purchase and consume alcohol, it’s alarmingly common for those under age 21 to abuse alcohol.
The fact that alcohol is so readily available means that it’s easy to keep a stock of alcohol in the home where it could very well be accessible to those who are underage. According to surveys, close to 90 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 report having consumed alcohol at least once with almost 60 percent having had consumed alcohol at least once in the previous month. In fact, almost one in four individuals aged 18 or older admit to at least one binge-drinking session in the past month.
Statistics also show that almost 8 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 meet the criteria for alcoholism, of which approximately two-thirds are men. Also, approximately one in ten U.S. children lives with at least one parent who is suffering from alcoholism. Unfortunately, only about 7 percent of all those individuals who met the criteria for an alcohol problem received any type of treatment.
It’s also been found that about 88,000 people die from alcohol-related incidents each year in the U.S., which makes alcohol-related incidents the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the nation. Alcohol misuse, alcohol poisoning, and the problems that result from abusing alcohol cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which includes law enforcement, emergency services, and alcoholism treatment.
The Palm Beach Institute Can Help You Get Your Life Back
Although it’s a legal substance, alcohol remains a major problem at both micro and macro levels. And while alcoholism itself is a severe illness, the inherent danger of alcohol is compounded by the fact that so many of those who misuse alcohol go on to use other substances. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-960-5456. We’re available anytime, day or night, to answer your questions or walk you through the process of choosing the right rehab for your needs.