As more states make some level of marijuana possession and use legal, the question still remains, “Is marijuana a gateway to other drug use?” Ongoing research suggests that at some level, marijuana use does increase the likelihood of experimentation with other, stronger drugs in some people, but not all.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a study from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related disorders found that adults who used marijuana during the first part of the study were more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years than adults who did not use marijuana. And people who were already struggling with an alcohol use disorder were at higher risk of their addiction becoming worse.
marijuana leaf illustrationThe anti-drug lobbyists who insist that marijuana is a gateway drug refer to the results of a 2012 Yale research study that demonstrated that in both men and women 18 to 25, the use of marijuana was linked with an increased chance of future prescription drug abuse. In males in this age group, alcohol and cigarettes also had the same association, but this was not so for the females.
The research team used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health with approximately 55,000 subjects across a three-year period. Roughly 12 percent of the sample admitted to behavior consistent with prescription drug abuse.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
A gateway drug, such as alcohol or marijuana, is considered one whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (as cocaine or heroin). Many people take from this that a gateway drug has the power to cause anyone who takes it to use of a harder drug. But is it the drug or by the individual who takes it? In other words, does the drug cause people to make poor choices for themselves, or are certain people primed by genetics, their environment, or both to make unhealthy decisions?