In Family Resources, Marijuana Drug Abuse, Personal Resources
woman vaping

In 2018, 37.3% of high school seniors reported vaping in the past year; this is up even higher than in 2017 when it was at 27.8%.1 With such high numbers, it is concerning to see how this trend may affect the younger generations in the future.

What Are Gateway Drugs?

Gateway drugs are more readily available and sometimes perceived as harmless substances that are thought to lead the user to start abusing harder drugs. Some examples of gateways drugs include alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine.

Is Vaping a Gateway Drug?

Along with some concerning health effects, questions have arisen about whether or not vaping is a gateway drug. One of the biggest problems with this trend is that because it is more recent, the long-term effects of vaping are still largely unknown. As a parent of a young adult, this can be especially troubling since your child may be engaging in something that they believe is harmless but could be hurting them in the long run.

Nicotine Addiction and Vaping

Although vaping is meant to be a safer alternative to smoking and research is mixed, there are some reports that suggest that vaping may even be a gateway to regular smoking. One survey found that 30.7% of e-cigarette users started smoking regular cigarettes, cigars, or hookahs within 6 months compared to only 8.1% of people who did not vape.2

Another problem lies with the presence of nicotine. Although only 13% of teens believe that e-cigarettes contain nicotine,2 most e-cigarettes actually do. Because the industry is not regulated well, the amount of nicotine can vary greatly from product to product. There are even instances where some e-cigarettes, despite claims that it contains 0% nicotine, actually do include it in the formula.3 Nicotine has long been considered a gateway drug, so the nicotine found in vape pens could be the first step to another drug addiction. One study on mice proves this point as the data showed that mice primed with nicotine as opposed to just water had a 78% greater preference for the chamber with cocaine versus the chamber without.4  So before your child reaches the point where they need cocaine addiction treatment, you may be able to prevent this problem by stopping the vaping habit.

Vaping Marijuana

Many people have also started using vaping as a way to ingest marijuana or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Vaping marijuana often results in a higher concentration of THC than smoking does which can lead to a more intense high. Marijuana itself can be a gateway drug for some people, so a more intense high could make the urge to vape higher. One study found that people who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.5 So while vaping marijuana may not lead everyone to use harder drugs, it may act as a gateway for some people to try these harder substances.

Vaping Other Drugs

There have been reports of some people vaping other illicit drugs. These drugs may include DMT, flakka, or a concoction of synthetic drugs. While the people who are doing this may already be abusing these drugs, vape pens may make trying these drugs more accessible and less threatening. If you suspect your child has started to vape these harmful substances, get them help immediately. Our Pennsylvania drug detox center can help wean them off of these toxins.

Overall, there is some research to suggest that vaping is a gateway drug. While not everyone who uses e-cigarettes will abuse harder drugs, there does appear to be a correlation between drug addiction and vaping. If you are a parent of a teenager or young adult who vapes, make sure you talk to them about these dangers.

If your child has already started abusing other drugs, get them help immediately with our PA drug treatment center. We work with young adults to help them overcome their substance abuse problems and get their lives back on track.

Do not hesitate any longer. Call us today at 570-536-9621.



  1. NIH – Teens using vaping devices in record numbers
  2. NIH – Teens and E-cigarettes
  3. CDC – Electronic Cigarettes, What is the bottom line?
  4. The New England Journal of Medicine – A Molecular Basis for Nicotine as a Gateway Drug
  5. CDC – Today’s Heroin Epidemic Infographics





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