Alcohol: A Potential Gateway Drug?
When you were a kid, did you ever see a drug addict and think ‘that will never be me’?
Everyone has a story and if asked, they might tell you alcohol kicked off a series of events that led to them to this point in their life. If you asked enough people, the sad truth is that a large majority of them will have started out this way. It’s one of those unnoticed ‘things’ that we do as a society and therefore we often miss the link between drinking and more sinister habits.
All you need to do is watch a couple of prison or drug documentaries and during the interview with the convict or drug user you should pay attention to the beginning of their story as they’ll often say something along the lines of ‘I was out drinking and partying with friends doing what young people do and then we tried a bit of (insert drug here) and it all spiralled out of control’. It’s far too easy to simply accept this as a flippant sentence, especially if you’re not looking for this vital link. However, it’s quite alarming that there are so many cases where alcohol has been a catalyst to someones downfall.
Gateway Drug Theory
It’s the theory that the use of a psychoactive drug can contribute towards the decision making process of a person that leads them on to the use of different forms of drugs. Besides caffeine, alcohol is one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs. What this basically means it’s a chemical that literally alters how your brain functions and subsequently changes how you see the world, your mood and your behaviour.
If you take a look at clubbing specifically, it’s goes so hand in hand with drinking alcohol that there is a bar area in every single club. It’s weird to think of a nightclub that only sells soft drinks and tea right? Now, as the name suggests, it’s also incredibly common for ‘party drugs’ like cocaine, MDMA (‘Molly’ or ecstasy) and ketamine (used to anesthetise animals) to be used in clubs too. There’s a famous club in London that was shut down because the drug use got so bad 2 people died from drug use and they failed to take the necessary steps to reduce usage in the club. If you’ve been to this club before somewhat sober, you’ll know it’s pretty fucked up. One of the key reasons for shutting them down was to do with the searching for drugs, or lack thereof. When your biggest customers are drug users, it doesn’t make sense to keep them out.
Alcohol, Cocaine and Rats
We know all too well that when drunk, our inhibitions are lowered and we are at more risk of making bad decisions. There was a fascinating study conducted by Columbia University where they allowed a group of rats access to alcohol for 2 hours a day, for 11 days. Following this, they were allowed access to cocaine over the next 32 days. The control group was a group of rats who did not have access to alcohol, just the cocaine.
Rats who had no access to alcohol pressed the lever to get cocaine an average of 310 times.
Rats with access to alcohol pressed the lever to get cocaine an average of 563 times.
A few days after the cocaine was stopped…
Rats who had no access to alcohol continued to press the lever to get cocaine an average of 18 times.
Rats with access to alcohol continued to press the lever to get cocaine an average of 58 times.
Of course, us humans are a lot smarter than rats and there are an incredible number of variables that come into play when looking at real people. However, there’s something in this that’s quite unsettling. Given how ubiquitous alcohol seems to be in our society, doesn’t this cause some alarm and cause us to ask more questions about how safe alcohol actually is?
Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at a map of all of the pubs in the United Kingdom:
If alcohol genuinely turns out to be a real gateway drug, it might take a while to unfuck ourselves.
Dangerous alcohol and drug combinations:
|Drug:||Short-term effects when mixed with alcohol (depressant):|
|Cocaine (stimulant)||When the two are metabolised together, they produce cocaethylene which increases blood pressure, aggressive and violent thoughts, and poor judgment. An excess of cocaethylene can cause a heart attack with heart pain, brain damage, strokes and/or aneurysms. Source: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/cocaine-treatment/mixing-with-alcohol|
|Ketamine (sedative)||When mixed, the effects of both are enhanced as they cause similar outcomes. It can produce a loss of motor function, a rapid decline in decision making abilities, hallucinations, psychosis, dehydration through sweating and organ strain as the alcohol is metabolised first which leaves the ketamine in your body for longer. Source: https://www.alcohol.org/mixing-with/ketamine/|
|Ecstasy aka MDMA (Stimulant)||Mixing ‘MD’ with alcohol can cause an increased heart rate, blood pressure, cramping, teeth grinding, nausea, heart attacks, dehydration, aggression, kidney failure and drug dependance. Source: https://www.alcohol.org/mixing-with/ecstasy/|