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The Truth About Gateway Drugs
Addiction Treatment Drug Addiction

The Truth About Gateway Drugs

Ryan Rhodes was a born entrepreneur. Unfortunately, trauma and loss as a child – compounded by toxic influences at too young an age – corrupted his entrepreneurial spirit. Ryan made money from other people’s suffering: Dealing drugs and engaging in other illicit activities that earned him millions of dollars but bankrupted him spiritually.

When Ryan’s lifestyle finally caught up with him, he was forced to face the truth about what he had done to other people. What follows is Ryan’s journey from darkness to light. As the co-founder of Manifest Recovery Centers, Ryan now uses his business acumen to lift others up.

The name Manifest is an acknowledgement that we are all capable of manifesting anything we want – spiritual wellness, moral corruptness. It’s in our power to decide how we live,” Ryan said. “To be part of someone else’s journey… there is no business in the world where you’re able to help people create lives of substance in such a powerful way.

The concept of "gateway drugs" is a very real problem. Early exposure to certain media and outside influencers often culminates in a perfect storm for young people to attach themselves to unhealthy behaviors. It could be argued that this programming starts with products like candy, breakfast cereal, video games etc. And in some cases, leads to early drug abuse and even drug dependency. The idea that if I get this thing, I will be better than I was before. I will feel better, I will have more fun, and other people will think I'm better because of it needs to be closely examined. 

My own experience with gateway drugs started when I was a young boy at the age of eight years old. I would steal my older brothers chewing tobacco and get buzzed in my room late at night. Sometimes even to the point of vomiting. This was the first time I had ever congested a mind, or mood-altering substance. I don't believe this event is what lead me down the eventual path of drug addiction, but the idea that I could consume a substance and subsequently feel different about myself was cemented in my mind. 

My next experience with drugs and alcohol came at the age of thirteen. It's difficult to pinpoint what came first, but cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana were the staples of my drug experimentation early on. I found an identity. Being me was not enough and getting high became an escape from the normal human experience.

Where did I learn this from? It is my opinion that I absorbed a fascination of unhealthy behaviors from my environment and popular influencers. Things like music, role models, and media are all important pieces of the puzzle in my story. A certain amount of curiosity is to be expected when creating one’s identity as it pertains to drug and alcohol abuse, but how does one transition into drug and alcohol dependency? 

I believe the answer isn't as simple as trying chewing tobacco and then becoming a heroin addict later in life. There are many more factors involved. I experimented with nearly every substance by the time I was sixteen years old, yet I was able to maintain a seemingly normal life. The moment I tried pharmaceutical opiates in the form of OxyContin at the age of twenty-two I crossed the invisible line. This was the moment the switch was flipped from recreational experimentation into full blown drug dependency. It could be argued that OxyContin was my gateway drug. In the same breath I could make a point that tobacco, and even soda and candy played a major role in the evolution of my drug abuse. 

In the end I can stand behind several main points. Firstly, media and advertising seemed to have planted the seed early on. The I need it, and I need it now culture was the original gateway drug. Secondly, environmental factors such as family structure, trauma and core beliefs systems absorbed as a young boy. Finally, freedom or access to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

What is the solution? Limiting young kids access to media content. Be it with television, smart phones, music and even pop culture icons. It is unrealistic that every child could be or should be completely restricted from media content, but parental supervision, content control, and time restrictions are a few tools to help navigate the Information Age. Next, I feel a structured family environments and free time activities play an equally important role. Having a healthy routine established early on is very helpful with limiting the possibility of children gravitating toward unhealthy lifestyle choices. After school activities like sports and clubs reinforce structure and provide healthy and fun alternatives for young kids. Lastly, effective and honest communication with our children. Connecting with kids can be a stressful and painstaking process but it doesn't have to be. In my experience, walking the line between friend and caregiver has proved to be very effective. Setting firm boundaries coupled with rewards for good behavior are just a few suggestions. The main point I'd like emphasize is the that I responded well to people I respected. I listened because I knew they had experience I lacked as it related to problems I was dealing with. Ask questions and listen to what these kids are saying. Be companionate and validate their feelings while offering solutions to their frustration. Growing up is filled with countless experiences both bad and good. It is our job to foster the good behavior and learn from the bad behavior. Using mistakes as lessons to steer corrective action. It will never be easy, but it will always be worth it.