Gateway Drugs

Gateway Drugs

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), by the time kids are in the 12th grade:

  • Nearly half of them have tried marijuana
  • Over half of them have tried cigarettes, and
  • Over three-quarters of them have tried alcohol.

Marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol are the “gateway drugs” of our society today. When young people experiment with cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, it often opens doors or “gateways” to stronger, more dangerous drugs and to risky situations where these drugs are readily available.

Because of their accessibility, gateway drugs are often introduced to young people by their older siblings, peers and even some parents. Regardless of the source, one point is clear – when a person tries one drug, statistics show that he/she will try another drug, and that the other drug will be stronger, more powerful and more addictive than the last.


  • Adolescent cigarette smokers are 100 times more likely to smoke marijuana and are more likely to use elicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin in the future than young people who do not smoke cigarettes. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Of those teenagers who use marijuana three to 10 times, 20 percent go on to use cocaine. Of those who use marijuana 100 or more times, 75 percent go on to use cocaine. Based on research reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
  • Marijuana smokers who initiated use before age 17 have up to a six times greater chance of developing dependence on marijuana, alcohol or other drugs.National Institute on Drug Abuse Notes, Volume 18, Number 4
  • Teens who are heavy drinkers (consume at least five drinks on five occasions over 30 days) are 12 times likelier to use illegal drugs than those who do not drink. Research conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse.
  • Nearly 90 percent of cocaine users had first smoked tobacco, drank alcohol or used Marijuana. Research conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse as reported by Drug Watch International

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