Smoking A Gateway Drug?
In a recent landmark study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers at Columbia University identified a biological mechanism that could help explain how tobacco products could act as gateway drugs, increasing a person’s future likelihood of abusing cocaine and perhaps other drugs as well. The study is the first to show that nicotine might prime the brain to enhance the behavioral effects of cocaine. In a national survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health it was learned that over 90 percent of adult cocaine users between the ages of 18 and 34 had smoked cigarettes before they began using cocaine. Nicotine, the researchers found, makes the brain more susceptible to cocaine addiction . The finding suggests that lowering smoking rates in young people might help reduce cocaine abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Education have reported on nicotine addiction as well. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the younger a child starts smoking, the more addicted he becomes. The Department of Education echoes the CDC findings. Its report, “Youth and Tobacco,” says people who “begin to smoke at an early age are more likely to develop severe levels of nicotine addiction than those who start at a later age.”
Effective smoking prevention efforts not only prevent the negative health consequences associated with smoking but could also decrease the risk of progression and addiction to cocaine and possibly other illicit drug use.