The anti-drug lobbyists who have insisted for years that marijuana is a gateway drug now have the results of a Yale research study in their corner. The results from work out of the Yale University School of Medicine 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.
- Alcohol use: 57 percent
- Cigarette use: 56 percent
- Marijuana use: 34 percent
When all the statistics were calculated, the Yale researchers found that in both sexes the individuals who had used marijuana in the past were 2.5 times as likely to abuse prescription medications than their counterparts without a history of cannabis use.
Is the Drug the Gateway or the Individual?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “gateway drug” in the following manner:
Many people take from this that a gateway drug almost has a power inherent in it to propel anyone who takes it on to the use of a harder drug. However, is the propulsion powered by 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?
If You Never Start, You Never Have to Stop
As most would argue, for the vast majority of people, using marijuana is not the healthiest choice, so using harder drugs is just an unhealthier option. The pattern of self-destructive behavior was already set in motion when the lower level drug (e.g., marijuana) was being used.
With this line of thinking then, gateway drugs don’t cause hardcore drug use, but they may pique the curiosity of those with a predisposition for addiction or risk-taking behavior.
This is why many anti-drug supporters advocate for abstinence. There is no test for someone’s likelihood of developing an addiction. Therefore, experimenting with drugs is a game of Russian roulette. You never know who will become an addict, a potentially deadly issue, and who will just have stories from their “crazy younger years.” Therefore, most experts agree that the best bet is not to start, so you never have to worry about not being able to stop.