Is Marijuana Really a Gateway Drug?
For decades, there has been a consensus among scientists, various agencies and a majority of the general public that smoking pot will lead to using cocaine, shooting heroin, popping prescription pills illegally, etc. and that it is essentially a “gateway” drug inevitably leading to future drug use.
Now, however, there are many studies that show that marijuana isn’t a gateway drug at all, that drug use does not follow a predictable pattern from marijuana to hard drugs and that most marijuana smokers do only that: smoke marijuana. Studies have also shown that the majority of marijuana users have absolutely no desire to try any other drug.
Which notion is correct? Let’s examine the support for both arguments.
Argument: Marijuana is a gateway drug that eventually leads people to use hard drugs.
If you ask addicts what drug first began their downfall, almost all of them say marijuana. According to the studies conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, if you smoke pot, you are over 100 times more likely to use cocaine than if you don’t, especially if you are a daily user.
Contrary to the belief that marijuana can only help medically, not hurt, the drug has been proven to cause many psychological problems, such as paranoia, hallucinations, depression and anxiety. In fact, studies have shown that smoking marijuana habitually leads to moderate to severe mental problems (especially in women).
An extensive study by the U.S. Institute of Medicine showed that marijuana should not be used to treat any disease. The study concluded that marijuana is no longer considered therapeutic, it provides nothing but mild effects, and there are many more effective drugs available.
Marijuana is much easier to obtain than harder drugs, which makes it a popular drug to try. Legalizing marijuana will make it all the more easy to procure. Because the drug leads to harder drug use, legalizing marijuana has the potential to make the country’s drug problem grow substantially.
Finally, studies have shown that daily pot use causes psychological cravings, which lead to addiction. Animal studies have proven that marijuana actually creates physical addiction; indeed, people have reported withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing use.
It is a proven fact that if you smoke marijuana, it will almost certainly lead you to harder drug use.
Argument: There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana is a “gateway drug.”
Many studies have shown that addicted individuals used alcohol as their first drug of choice and that people who drink alcohol are much more likely to go on to harder drugs. There is often a progression in drug use, but marijuana is not the only drug that leads to it. There has never been any conclusive evidence that it is a gateway drug.
Environmental factors play a key role in hard drug use. An illicit drug user is more likely to live in a poverty-stricken neighborhood, which gives more exposure and easier access to drugs than other neighborhoods. Using marijuana has no bearing on the kinds of drugs abused in certain neighborhoods. It has been proven that environment has a major impact on all drug abuse. For instance, poverty and unemployment are indicators of hard drug use. The biggest predictor of hard drug use with no prior use of marijuana is ethnicity. Caucasians are the largest group, followed by Hispanics and then African-Americans.
There are people who insist (for whatever reason) on experimenting with different types of drugs, and if marijuana is used first, that does not necessarily mean that it is a gateway drug. Studies have shown that traumatic experiences in people’s lives can cause them to want to “escape.” Just because marijuana may be the first drug they try to kill their psychological pain does not mean that it will lead to harder drug use.
Many comprehensive studies have demonstrated and proved that marijuana is a safe, non-toxic medicine useful in the treatment of some of our most disabling medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain and more. Terminally ill people who smoke marijuana to ease their pain have shown marked improvement both mentally and physically.
Marijuana is the lowest ranking drug in terms of its potential for addiction. In fact, caffeine and nicotine have been shown to be more addictive than pot. What’s more, no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, and there has been no conclusive proof that it is a gateway drug.
Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug, in addition to being the easiest to get, thus it is certainly likely to be the first one tried by an individual. The question is not whether a person who smokes marijuana will go on to use other, harder drugs. The real question is this: Is it the marijuana that causes the person to go on to other drugs, or would he/she have done it anyway?
The Bottom Line
The arguments for and against marijuana being a gateway drug are both compelling, and regardless of the claims on both sides, evidence can be found to support either position. Whether or not marijuana actually leads people to try harder drugs, isn’t the risk alone enough to discourage you from using it? Why not find healthy, active ways to relax and have a good time instead of going down the destructive road of drugs, wherever it may lead.
This Post was written and contributed by Ricky Stanton. Ricky has over 10 years of experience helping people with their holistic drug rehab programs. He hopes to continue to help educate others about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions.