gateway drug


: a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (such as cocaine or heroin)

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Central to his ideology, Sowell sees the combination of federal aid and racialized rhetoric as a gateway drug to neutralize the working class and compromise Black family values, community economics, and sustainability. WIRED, 21 Sep. 2022 The tension over how to operate a legal market for a substance once reviled as a gateway drug to heroin is not new. Karina Elwood, Washington Post, 26 Aug. 2022 If travel is a gateway drug, photography is the next hardest substance. Tanner Bowden, Outside Online, 18 Aug. 2022 By the 1990s, Dungeons & Dragons had become wrapped up in the Satanic Panic — railed against by the religious right and seen to be a gateway drug of sorts into occultism. Elisabeth Garber-paul, Rolling Stone, 15 July 2022 Was Nixon’s Brookings outburst a gateway drug to ordering a break-in on purely political grounds? Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 17 June 2022 The mixed reality glasses will be the gateway drug to the future. Chris Smith, BGR, 7 June 2022 For the many moviegoers who aren’t, especially in the West, this three-hour extravaganza of sound and fury will serve as a gateway drug to a whole subset of world-cinema pop narcotics. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 1 June 2022 Her love of metal led her to congregate among the other goth, metal and punk kids in her high school — a gateway drug to jersey mall culture and hot topic aesthetics. Niko Stratis, SPIN, 23 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gateway drug.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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Word History

First Known Use

1981, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gateway drug was in 1981

Dictionary Entries Near gateway drug

Cite this Entry

“Gateway drug.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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Medical Definition

gateway drug


gate·​way drug ˈgāt-ˌwā- How to pronounce gateway drug (audio)
: a drug (such as alcohol or marijuana) whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on more dangerous, addicting substances (such as cocaine or heroin)
To end at the beginning, nicotine … is now considered a "gateway drug," as it commonly precedes and is comorbid with other substance use. Donald A. Henderson, The Journal of the American Medical Association

Last Updated: 2 Oct 2022

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