Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Skip Navigation LinksResearch

  • Primary Prevention on Gateway Drugs
  • Syabu
  • Heroin
  • Ecstacy
  • Ketamine



The term "gateway drugs" refers to the theory that certain drug use leads to future drug use. Alcohol and tobacco are often called gateway drugs because of the link between the number of young people who use them and the number that go on to use harder drugs. But is it true? Do alcohol and tobacco cause young people to use other drugs? Consider these facts:

  • Alcohol and tobacco are usually the first drugs that young people try.
  • High school seniors who smoke every day are 10 times more likely to use other drugs regularly than are seniors who don't smoke on a regular basis.
  • Adolescents who drink heavily or who "binge drink" are more likely to use other drugs than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers.

As a parent, if you're thinking, "Well, it's only alcohol and tobacco...," think again. While using alcohol and tobacco, young people develop behaviors that can also be associated with using drugs, such as a willingness to take chances. They also learn:

  • How to obtain substances illegally
  • How much of the substance to use
  • How to hide what they've done and lie about it
  • How to hide what they've done and lie about it
  • How to deal with any guilt and shame over what they've done

The use of tobacco and alcohol does not necessarily cause young people to use harder drugs. But there is strong evidence that using these substances sets up patterns of behavior that may make it easier to take the next step and use other drugs. The moment people smoke their first cigarette or drink their first beer, they have started a pattern of behavior that gets harder and harder to stop.  And each time they are introduced to other drugs, they will be more likely to try them.  Using substances also clouds a person's judgment, making it hard to say "NO" when offered other drugs.

Using alcohol and tobacco is not the only behavior that can be associated with future drug use. Things like cutting school, speeding, being sexually active, and other risk-taking behaviors are also patterns of behavior that parents should be concerned about.


Absolutely!  Nicotine is the leading cause of preventable death.  Alcohol is physically addictive.  Marijuana is psychologically addictive.  Use of these drugs can harm physical, mental and sexual development.  Using gateway drugs also increases the risk of getting sexually-transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Why are there continuous articles and programs discussing the dangers of gateway drugs? The use of alcohol and/or tobacco (cigarettes and chewing tobacco) can open the door of curiosity to other drugs like marijuana, crack, and inhalants. Scientists are gathering evidence that tobacco and its key ingredient, nicotine, may open the way to more serious drug and alcohol use as reported by the National Institute of Drug/Alcohol (NIDA) Notes, Summer/Fall 1991.

Smoking may not be a specific cause of drug and alcohol use, but it presents powerful preventable risk factors preceding drug and alcohol use. Three characteristics are present:

  • Nicotine, a powerful addicting drug
  • Cigarette smoking, a learned behaviour and
  • Nicotine that regulates mood and behaviour, relievinng stress and boredom

Inhalants are another curiosity step that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) vapors in youth ages 7 to 17. These forms of sniffing. They are found in expensive solvents, aerosols, some anesthetics and other chemicals. Examples are model airplane glue, nail polish remover, lighter and cleaning fluids, and gasoline.

Alcohol research suggests that alcohol use tends to increase the chance of using cigarettes and marijuana. According to a Gallup Youth Survey (5/97) alcohol is creeping back up in popularity. Most young alcohol users start drinking in the critical age period between 13 and 16. Alcohol use indicates an increasing pattern of alcohol and other drug use. The alarming trends in the greater use of alcohol and tobacco among youth are due, at least in part, to extensive advertising campaigns.

Most important, as parents, continue the honest discussion of the dangers of these drugs. Encourage youth to share their concerns and questions. Remember to listen. This sends an important message to the youth that you care.

Likewise Brunei Darussalam has enforced legislation on alcohol through,

  • Prohibited for sale and consumption for Muslims
  • Limited amount of importation for personal consumption for non-Muslims

As for the licensing of tobacco, Brunei Darussalam has introduced,

  • Heavy taxation for the sales of cigarettes
  • Limited importation
  • Non smoking public areas especially in hospital, offices and cinemas


Preventive measures for drug demand and reduction have also been active in Brunei Darussalam. In addition to ongoing long term Preventive Drug Education program such as routine anti drug lectures and exhibition for the mass community as stated:

  • Anti Drug forum between the goverment and community leaders
  • Large-scale research project on drug abuse amongst students
  • Increased utilization of the Mass Media for Preventive Drug Education
  • Increased cooperation with the School Authorities for the development of anti drug curriculum         
  • The established of an inhalant centre to support the existing National Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre of Al-Islah     

  • The consideration of more Indigenous and Culturally relevant models of rehabilitation such as the Modality of ‘Rawatan Berpandukan Zikir’ (Rehabilitation through Religious Teachings) to further develop the existing rehabilitation program of Al-Islah         
  • Encourage closer family bonding between Parents and Youth through family activities


Parents are worried and concerned with their children using alcohol and other drugs. There is because pressure from their peers may play a factor in the use of alcohol and other drugs. Parents must become involved, but most aren't sure how to talk with their children about drugs. A main reason children choose not to use drugs is because they are afraid of disappointing their parents. Children learn to make healthy choice, and feel good about them. Here are some primary prevention for raising drug-free children:

  • Give the child a sense of confidence. Praise, encourage, and support the child. This is the best defense against peer pressure. Children need to know that their friends can be wrong. The child might act out various situations in which someone tries to convince him/her to drink alcohol or take drugs. Figure out several good ways to handle a situation
  • Listen to what the child says. Pay careful, thoughtful attention, and be helpful during periods of loneliness or doubt. If the child tells you something you don't want to hear, don't ignore the statement -- talk about it
  • Talk about things that are important for the child, including alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and the need for peer-group acceptance
  • Encourage healthy and creative activities. Emphasize the importance of good health. With a young child discuss the difference between medicine and illegal drugs. Help the child to get involve in hobbies, after-school activities, or sports
  • Help your child feel good about him/herself and develop strong values. Relate the fact that place high value on the child's special qualities and that drugs will destroy those qualities. Discuss values such as honesty and responsibility
  • Educate yourself and talk with your child about alcohol and other drugs. Teach him ways to say no. Get to know the facts about how drugs harm people -- physically, socially, and educationally. Don't exaggerate about the effects of drugs or make up "facts"         
  • Set a good example. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly and moderately. Your habits and attitudes strongly influence your child. Keep the distinction clear about what is legal for adults but not for children. Do not use illegal drugs
  • Know what to do if you suspect a problem. Beware of signs and symptoms of drug use. Seek advice from a professional -- a counselor, a religious leader, or someone at a local treatment center
  • As a measure an option to improve the parent / child relationship is to team up with other parents. Form or join a parent group that provides information on child-rearing and facts on alcohol and other drugs. Support one another in coping with your children's concerns and problems.
  • The good news is that most adolescents do not move beyond tobacco and alcohol and use hard drugs. Whether they do or not depends for the most part on their personality, their family, and their community.


  • Organise drug-free activities (dances, movies, community service projects, walk-a-thons or marathons, etc.) to raise money for charities
  • Use plays, songs, and raps to show younger children the consequences of drug abuse
  • Organise an anti-drug rally
  • Tell the police, teacher, or parent about drug dealers in school and community. Many areas have phone numbers to let people report these crimes anonymously
  • If school doesn't have an alcohol or other drug abuse prevention program, start one
  • Check recreation centers, youth clubs, libraries, or schools to see if they offer after-school activities -- tutoring, sports, study time, craft classes. What about a community improvement projects that young people can design and carry out?


  • Prevention programs should be designed to enhance "protective factors" and move toward reversing or reducing known "risk factors"
  • Prevention programs should target all forms of drug abuse, including the use of tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants
  • Prevention programs should include skills to resist drugs when offered, strengthen personal commitments against drug use, and increase social competency (e.g., in communications, peer relationships, self-efficacy, and assertiveness), in conjunction with reinforcement of attitudes against drug use 
  • Prevention programs for adolescents should include interactive methods, such as peer discussion groups, rather than didactic teaching techniques alone
  • Prevention programs should be long-term, over the school career with repeat interventions to reinforce the original prevention goals. For example, school-based efforts directed at elementary and middle school students should include booster sessions to help with critical transitions from middle to high school    
  • Family-focused prevention efforts have a greater impact than strategies that focus on parents only or children only
  • Community programs that include media campaigns and policy changes, such as new regulations that restrict access to alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, are more effective when they are accompanied by school and family interventions         
  • Community programs need to strengthen norms against drug use in all drug abuse prevention settings, including the family, the school, and the community
  • Schools offer opportunities to reach all populations and also serve as important settings for specific subpopulations at risk for drug abuse, such as children with behaviour problems or learning disabilities and those who are potential dropouts    
  • Prevention programming should be adapted to address the specific nature of the drug abuse problem in the local community
  • The higher the level of risk of the target population, the more intensive the prevention effort must be and the earlier it must begin
  • Prevention programs should be age-specific, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive
  • Effective prevention programs are cost-effective. For every dollar spent on drug use prevention, communities can save 4 to 5 dollars in costs for drug abuse treatment and counseling.


"Preventing children from ever starting to use drugs is the key to our nation's future. Prevention must set clear and consistent no-drug use standards, involve parents and communities, and have strong national leadership.

Brunei Darussalam’s BASMIDA calls for a major overhaul of drug prevention efforts including:

  • National leadership making drug prevention a priority and establishing a drug prevention block grant which sets a strong national standard of "no use of illegal drugs and no illegal use of licit drugs." Drug prevention must be built upon a foundation of firm anti-drug laws and policies and updated information on drug harms
  • Targeting prevention block funds to the local community level and requiring citizen board approval for prevention expenditures. Parents, citizens, students, teachers, police, and others must be part of an open and participatory process. Government must empower communities if drug prevention is to be effective
  • Empower citizens to hold government accountable for drug prevention activity. Auditors have a right to know the amount of prevention funds received, how every dime of funds are expended, how effective programs are, and how to be part of the decision-making process

Government has the opportunity to use these mechanism to make drug prevention more responsive to the needs and well being of the nation's children.

The recision of drug and safe school prevention funding must be followed by action to empower communities and to establish national leadership and make drug prevention a national priority

Next >>