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Progression to hard drugs not as quick as assumed

For many people, the progression onto 'hard drugs' is not as quick as we assume.  Admittedly there are individuals who choose to try a class A drug straight away and become addicted to these types of substances very quickly.  However, for many others there is a ladder that they climb before succumbing to an addiction to the most dangerous and intense drugs. 

With regards to illicit drug use, cannabis is one of the most commonly used drugs, and is often one of the first drugs that people try.  Often people report the reason for this as being because it is not as 'dangerous' as others, and this is a very worrying misconception, as cannabis has some very risky side effects, including hallucinations and paranoia (

However, once people become bored with the effects of cannabis, they may choose to try something else, and this may be more likely if they know another form of drug is available to them, perhaps through friends or other contacts.  But as people begin to seek more intense forms of thrills gained from drugs, they often evolve into trying new types and putting their lives at even greater risk.

This evolution from one drug to another is a worrying progression, but scientist have discovered something that is even more concerning.  They have found that the gateway to illicit drugs can actually be opened by the use of legals substances, such as nicotine.  One study has found that people who smoke increase their chances of later using cocaine, due to the opening of a 'gateway' in the brain, that encourages further substance abuse (Science Daily, 2011).  It seems that the addictive properties of nicotine, prime the brain for further stimulation, and this can increase the chances of people wanting to try other drugs or become addicted to other drugs more easily, particularly cocaine.

These findings show how vital it can be to try and prevent people from taking up smoking, and if that fails, it is also important to encourage them to give up as soon as possible.  Drug abuse programs are designed to help people overcome their addictive behaviour, but research such as this shows that there are many steps in the process which are controllable or preventable, and information such as this should be made readily available, to try and help people understand the risks they are taking with their health.




Science Daily.  (2011).  Nicotine primes the brain for cocain use: Molecular basis of gateway sequence of drug use.  Sourced from:

Published by on 27/07/2020.

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