“A gateway to where?”
Although these three gateway drugs are illegal for use by this age group, they may be accessible because, at least in the case of tobacco and alcohol, they are readily used in society and often by parents and older siblings. Many adults do not realize it, but marijuana is also easily accessible and is used by older siblings and some parents of students of this age. Students in surveys often report that their first experience with alcohol was finishing a glass of wine left on the dinner table by a parent. Marijuana may in fact be a drug that an older sibling encourages a younger one to try, believing it is not really harmful and mitigating his or her own guilt by having a younger sibling use it. The facts are very clear. When an individual starts using one drug, he/she is likely to try other drugs ones that may be more harmful, more addictive, and put the user in more danger. The younger a person starts using any drug the more likely that it will become a problem and other drug usage will follow.
Fourth to sixth grade students can understand the concept of a gateway. It is an opening that can lead in many directions and from which many paths emerge. Making responsible decisions about which path to choose is important and requires knowledge, skill, and strength. Students of this age are very interested in Horatio Alger type stories in which the hero overcame odds or chose a particular path that led him/her to greatness. Gateways are placed before all of us regularly. It is important that we see them as passageways with the potential to take us in positive or negative directions. The opportunity to use tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana presents us with such a gateway.
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