What Are The Most Common Gateway Drugs?

What Are The Most Common Gateway Drugs?

The Top 3 Drugs That Could Lead to Eventual Substance Abuse

What Is A Gateway Drug?

A “gateway drug” is a substance that can be, but isn’t always, habit-forming. Long-term use of gateway drugs may lead to substance abuse issues or drug problems later in life.
Gateway drugs are considered soft drugs. These kinds of drugs do not guarantee dependence and are not detrimental in moderation, but they may open the door to harder substances.

How Gateway Drug Use Can Lead to Addiction

Teenage girl with problems at psychotherapist's with mom
Using gateway drugs usually do not directly cause addiction, but they can correlate to the development of an abuse problem. For example, people who are under the influence of a gateway drug might become curious about co-using with other drugs. Sometimes, using one type of drug can make others seem less dangerous. However, they may be beginning to spiral into something they can’t control

The Main Gateway Drugs

Here are the most common substances that are usually referred to as gateway drugs:


Nicotine: it can now be found in cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vape products. While overall cigarette use has gone down in recent years, new tobacco-based technology has kept nicotine accessible to a wide range of audiences.
Cigarettes and other tobacco products are usually part of a users’ everyday routine; however, this common substance is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It can cause severe health complications, be extremely addictive, and lead to eventual drug use — especially if someone starts smoking at a young age.
Because of nicotine’s similarities to other drugs and high likelihood for addiction, it is considered one of the most dangerous gateway drugs.


There’s an ongoing debate about the state of marijuana: is it harmless, or could it lead to the use of harder drugs? Well, that’s hard to answer. There’s evidence on both sides, and every person is different. Some people who use marijuana at a young age completely stop using it when they get older, whereas others might become addicted to illicit substances down the line.
While marijuana is one of the most accepted substances to be considered a gateway drug, there are still concerns that keep it illegal for recreational use in many states. Marijuana is not recommended for people prone to addictions or habits — the casual use of the drug could change their opinion or craving toward other drugs.


Alcohol: the most commonly-consumed gateway drug. This depressant, which is desirable because of its effect on the reward center of the brain, is just as addictive as any illicit drug. This substance suppresses the central nervous system to impair your brain function and reduce your ability to think rationally.
People who use alcohol to excess are more likely to use another drug because of how addictive it can be. Being under the influence can also spark a curiosity about using illegal or illicit drugs.

Preventing Substance Abuse Before It Starts

The younger someone is when they start drinking or using soft drugs, the more likely they are to form some sort of addiction later on in life. If you or someone you know started using at a young age, the likelihood of dependence may increase. However, there is no guarantee — some people can use substances frequently during youth but feel no desire to do so once they get older.

How to Use Gateway Drugs Responsibly

Overall, the best way to avoid addiction to gateway drugs is to use them responsibly. Know your limit, and try your best to stop when or if you start to notice a dependence issue. If you or a loved one is developing a substance abuse issue from using gateway drugs, give us a call for some help or addiction recovery services.

Related Resources

Overcome your addiction today with the help of one of the best addiction rehab centers in the U.S. We are in-network with most major insurance companies.

Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Get exclusive resources, find inspiration, and grow alongside us. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter now!

Scroll to Top