The National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that in 2014, there were an estimated 1.5 million past-month users aged 12 or older. Adults aged 18 to 25 years old had a higher rate of use – over 3 million users. CNN states that cocaine has been described as completely euphoric – producing a feeling of physical lightness and self-confidence that has people wanting to take more. Users consume cocaine by injecting, snorting, smoking, or rubbing it on their gums. Where do gateway drugs fit into this?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a gateway drug as “a drug which supposedly leads the user on to more addictive or dangerous drugs.” Researchers from the National Tobacco Control Program in India found in 2007 that the reasons for initiation and maintenance of drugs by adolescence and youth are peer pressure and/or curiosity. According to Columbia University, a recent study published by the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia (CASA) found that children ages 12-17 years old who use gateway drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana, are up to 266 times more likely to use cocaine than those who do not use gateway drugs. Adults who do this are up to 323 times more likely.
Dr. Edmund Griffin Jr., Columbia neuroscientist, led a study where rats were given alcohol in their water bottles for 2 hours daily at a concentration of 10%. This one group of rats was given this amount for 10 days straight, whereas the other group of rats was not given any alcohol at all. In a test with lever-pressing for cocaine delivery and a foot shock, rats who had been given the alcohol before were least resistant to the pain and more adamant about compulsive cocaine use. The study’s findings suggest that alcohol increase can “increase compulsive cocaine use by promoting the breakdown of important proteins in the nucleus accumbens, a brain region critical for reward-based memory.”
Several studies have shown that alcohol can lead to other drugs, including cocaine. Youth are particularly at risk for this because their peer pressure and curiosity can lead them to making more risky decisions that could affect their health. However, researchers from Sam Houston State University and Central Michigan University found in their 2016 study that gateway drugs such as alcohol alone do not predict drug use – a variety of other factors, such as depression and lack of drug education/support must also occur.
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