Gateway Drugs include alcohol, nicotine, caffeine products, and inhalants because the use of one more of these chemicals or substances can lead to the use of stronger drugs. Besides the obvious health hazards, these drugs are dangerous because they are legal and easy to obtain for those who are of legal age. Not every child who smokes or drinks will become a drug addict. But the potentials there and chances are that they may develop a more severe habit. The children of today grow up much faster and are more aware than children of then years ago. But knowing about addiction and substance abuse does not mean they will make the right choices. “Gateway drugs” are common in today’s world.
Where does environment fit in?
The environment a child is raised in plays a key role in how they choose to live their life. Every household and family has different values. These values should be considered when determining how environments will influence a child. Environments may mold a child’s attitude and inevitably set the standards for their lifestyle. For instance:
· Smoking Home: where at least one adult smokes. Don’t be surprised if your children start smoking. (After all, you are setting the example.)
· Moderate or Occasional Drinking Home: Where it is culturally permissible for adults as well as children to drink wine at meals, or a home where adults drink for the enjoyment but not to be intoxicated. Research has shown that theses children tend to begin drinking in the teenage years, and in the presence of their parents, but it usually does not develop into alcoholism because they know when to stop (unless there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and then the child is usually addicted).
· Recreational Drinking Home: where parents drink to have a good time. Children relate drinking to being social. Therefore the child may tend to begin drinking with friends to be social.
· Alcohol-as-a-stress-reliever Home: where adults in the home drink to relax or calm their nerves. The child from this home may believe that alcohol has a medicinal purpose and therefore think it’s all right to have a drink if they are having a bad day.
· Alcoholic Home: where at least one adult in the home is an alcoholic. This is extremely traumatic for the child and other members of the family. Research has shown that these children, at first, tend to stay away from alcohol, but when feeling stress in their adult lives, may find themselves turning to alcohol or other addictions.
· Drug-Permissive Home: where illicit drugs are as accepted as alcohol or smoking. In this home parents need to reflect and see if that’s what they want for their children.
· Sheltered Home: where the family shields the children from the evils of this world by hiding things from them. Parents in these homes believe if they do not see it or bring it up, it does not exist. These homes tend to produce either a child that has problems socializing or a rebel child, behaving in the opposite way in which they were raised.
Can gateway drug use be prevented?
Just because a child is raised in a certain environment does not mean they will grow up the way parents want them to. Children develop attitudes about alcohol and other drugs by the age of 10. These attitudes are developed at home, at school, and from the community. Teach children what drug abuse is and how to avoid it in a positive way. Because most of what children learn is taught in the home, good ideals and morals need to be instilled as early as possible. A child raised in a drug-free environment has a greater chance to live a drug-free life. Promote a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and exercise, and encourage positive ways to cope with daily problems. Discover children’s interests and help them to join social clubs and organizations, or meet friends that have the same interests.