It Starts Before it Starts with Gateway Drugs

The New Life House recovery community asked Dr. Noelle Rodriguez what her thoughts were on “gateway drugs.”  Here is what she had to say:

Any drug that becomes habitual in use could potentially be a “gateway drug.”  Someone who has addictive behavior, who is genetically pre-disposed to addiction, mental disorders, victims of violent abuse/exposure are at highest risk for substance abuse that can lead to addiction.

For some people it starts with cigarettes, lying, stealing, aggression, anxiety and can lead to drug use. It’s important to consider the peer group and parental influences on a teen’s attitude and development.

for illustrative purposes only

for illustrative purposes only

Depression, anxiety and other mental diagnosis are often the catalyst for substance use that can lead to abuse and/or addiction. Poor communication, chronic depression, between teens and parents is also a contributing factor.

When is it a real problem?  When any behavior, mood, drug or alcohol use takes over someone’s life.  When it affects family members and adjustments are made to accommodate the “problem.” When, social, vocational, financial, educational situations are compromised because someone can’t control the amount they use or the frequency at which they use.

Sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish if there is a real problem.  Is it adolescent curiosity?  Is it a parent’s intolerance for any substance use? Attitudes are important to consider, kids have their own perspective and it is different for them like it was for the parent when they were a teen. What’s most important is to know what’s going on in your kid’s life. Who are their friends, where are they after school and how much time do you spend with them?  You may not be able to control their choices but you can be a positive influence on them.

Remember a teenage brain is not fully developed; the frontal lobe in which decision-making is primary is still growing. The impaired judgment that comes with intoxication is more vulnerable in a teen’s brain.  If you think there’s a problem don’t wait, early intervention is the best chance you may have in helping your teen recognize substances may be negatively impacting them.

Dr. Noelle Rodriguez is a primary therapist for an intensive outpatient program. Noelle holds a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and comes to us with many years of experience working in the field of chemical dependency, adolescents, dual-diagnosis, family, and couples work as well.

Noelle worked as a therapist specializing in substance abuse for a large social service agency in the Los Angeles area. She is active in the 12 Step community, is of service to many young women, dedicated to education reform, helping at-risk youth maintain healthy productive lifestyles.

Born and raised on the Westside she is committed to giving back to the community. Noelle is an ex-employee of the Santa Monica Police Department and has over a decade of experience volunteering with Santa Monica Police Activities where she also served on the board of directors. Noelle currently maintains private practice on the Westside. She is an active member of Women’s Association of Addiction Treatment.

2 Comments
  • David S
    Posted at 12:52h, 22 April Reply

    As I got sober and began to learn about my addictive behaviors I started to see the patterns far before I picked up my first drink or drug. My body had an allergic like reaction to drugs and alcohol craving for more however behaviors like lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, and attention seeking were things that my family, friends, teachers, principles, and sports coaches were able to spot out and be concerned with for as long back as I can remember. Getting away with things and avoiding responsibility to getting attention whether it was negative or not were things early on I was able to identify with and associate in my mind that they were working for me which bled into my drinking and using that intensified these. Well put.

  • Martha
    Posted at 12:23h, 29 April Reply

    Great insight, David! Thanks for your honesty.

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