Study says marijuana no gateway drug


December 4, 2006
Blog Entry, Brain & Behavior, Health

Marijuana is not a “gateway” drug that predicts or eventually leads to substance abuse, suggests a 12-year University of Pittsburgh study. Moreover, the study’s findings call into question the long-held belief that has shaped prevention efforts and governmental policy for six decades and caused many a parent to panic upon discovering a bag of pot in their child’s bedroom.

The Pitt researchers tracked 214 boys beginning at ages 10-12, all of whom eventually used either legal or illegal drugs. When the boys reached age 22, they were categorized into three groups: those who used only alcohol or tobacco, those who started with alcohol and tobacco and then used marijuana (gateway sequence) and those who used marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco (reverse sequence).

Nearly a quarter of the study population who used both legal and illegal drugs at some point – 28 boys – exhibited the reverse pattern of using marijuana prior to alcohol or tobacco, and those individuals were no more likely to develop a substance use disorder than those who followed the traditional succession of alcohol and tobacco before illegal drugs, according to the study, which appears in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“The gateway progression may be the most common pattern, but it’s certainly not the only order of drug use,” said Ralph E. Tarter, Ph.D., professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and lead author of the study. “In fact, the reverse pattern is just as accurate for predicting who might be at risk for developing a drug dependence disorder.”

In addition to determining whether the gateway hypothesis was a better predictor of substance abuse than competing theories, the investigators sought to identify characteristics that distinguished users in the gateway sequence from those who took the reverse path. Out of the 35 variables they examined, only three emerged to be differentiating factors: Reverse pattern users were more likely to have lived in poor physical neighborhood environments, had more exposure to drugs in their neighborhoods and had less parental involvement as young children. Most importantly, a general inclination for deviance from sanctioned behaviors, which can become evident early in childhood, was strongly associated with all illicit drug use, whether it came in the gateway sequence, or the reverse.

While the gateway theory posits that each type of drug is associated with certain specific risk factors that cause the use of subsequent drugs, such as cigarettes or alcohol leading to marijuana, this study’s findings indicate that environmental aspects have stronger influence on which type of substance is used. That is, if it’s easier for a teen to get his hands on marijuana than beer, then he’ll be more likely to smoke pot. This evidence supports what’s known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user’s individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.

“The emphasis on the drugs themselves, rather than other, more important factors that shape a person’s behavior, has been detrimental to drug policy and prevention programs,” Dr. Tarter said. “To become more effective in our efforts to fight drug abuse, we should devote more attention to interventions that address these issues, particularly to parenting skills that shape the child’s behavior as well as peer and neighborhood environments.”

Indeed, according to the study, interventions focusing on behavior modification may be more effective prevention tactics than current anti-drug initiatives. For example, providing guidance to parents – particularly those in high-risk neighborhoods – on how to boost their caregiving skills and foster bonding with their children, could have a measurable effect on a child’s likelihood to smoke marijuana. Also, early identification of children who exhibit antisocial tendencies could allow for interventions before drug use even begins.

Although this research has significant implications for drug abuse prevention approaches, Dr. Tarter notes that the study has some limitations. First, as only male behaviors were studied, further investigation should explore if the results apply to women as well. Also, the examination of behaviors in phases beyond alcohol and marijuana consumption in the gateway series will be necessary.

From University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


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406 Responses to Study says marijuana no gateway drug

  1. Anonymous May 7, 2008 at 9:16 am #

    I love weed

  2. Anonymous May 4, 2008 at 4:59 am #

    the reason you dont find a problem with it is because there is nothing wrong with it. The goverment dosent wanna make weed legal. Think of all the DEA agent,pision guards, probation officers,and of corse gotta get that tax money. America has wasted billions of dollars in just a fews. they have doubled thier nationl debt in just a few years (manly since Bush got in there) i cant think of a single reason that the goverment shouldent make it legal. look at amsterdam i went there last fall and i was talkin to a police officer and told me they little or no violence over weed. the government make money the charge the coffie shops a tax. As well as the hookers. they have bodyguards in the room and they have to get tested once a week (well at least they are supposed to) in 2000 Texas whata shitty place to live.(a state that gives out less years for intoxicated vehicular manslaughter than if u get caught 5-50 pounds of pot) which is totaly harmless!! but like i was saying they said at alcohol was responcible for 120,000 deaths a year and that not includind 50% of all fatal car accidents and 65% of all murders! and can you guess how many marijuana had including intentional overdose and unitentional? ZERO not a single person has died as a direct effect of this little green plant.

  3. Anonymous May 3, 2008 at 6:23 am #

    to tha guy who begged “please no”… i luv tha way u put that. thank god somebody is finally bein fukin real. “..and you get addicted. and die. and it sucks.” lol!! i luv it!!

  4. Anonymous May 2, 2008 at 1:24 pm #

    OKAY, THE REASON WEED IS LACED IS BECAUSE THE DEALERS SOMETIMES NEEDA REUP ON THEIR SUPPLY OF GREEN SO THEY TRY TO EXPERIMENT AND SALVAGE WHATEVER THEY CAN TO GET MORE…IF WEED WAS LEGALIZED THEIR WOULDNT HAVE TO BE DEALERS PULLING STUNTS LIKE THAT…SO DNT HATE THE WEED CHANGE THE LAW

  5. Anonymous May 7, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    ….i think your an idiot..in my opinion booze is the main drug that leads to other things…people get so drunk they dont know what the fuck they are doing…ive been smoking pot for awhile and ive never been that fucked up nor have i had the urge to try harder drugs…most people are fine with just smoking weed…douchebag.

  6. Anonymous May 8, 2008 at 8:47 am #

    man this states that marijuana is NOT a gateway drug anymore than tobacco or alcohol but yes i agree i smoke marijuana and choose not to drink because i like to have a fun time and wake up and be fine not hungover and wondering what the hell happened the night before

  7. Anonymous April 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

    you guys should all be ashamed on both sides.

    those of you on the super legalization liberal side, look at what marijuana really does…. not much, but still… don’t pretend that it doesn’t have any negative effects, i can promise you inhaling any type of smoke is not good for you. don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re becoming “closer to god”(thats what mushrooms are for.)don’t call marijuana medicine if the real reason you smoke it is to get stoned, you like to be stoned! so what?!

    those of you on the opposite side with the gateway drug viewpoint, wake the fuck up. alcohol? nicotine? ever hear of these drugs our society rams down our children’s throats every day? do you actually think more people try marijuana before they try alcohol or nicotine? do you think these may not be gateway drugs in and of themselves? don’t get into semantics with me on it either; they’re drugs plain and simple. you use alcohol and nicotine, it doesn’t kill you so, you’re more likely to use pot, you say “hey this stuff isn’t so bad, i’ll try pot” then you try pot and you say “oh this is even better than alcohol and nicotine! it doesn’t give you hangovers, make you throw up, give you headaches, make you crash cars, make you rape people, make you get into fights, or make you walk funny, or kill you, or taste like an ashtray”

    then you do harder drugs thinking maybe they wont be so bad either, but they are, and you get addicted. and die. and it sucks.

  8. Anonymous April 28, 2008 at 7:34 pm #

    some of you are right and some of you are wrong, first of all recent studies show there is NO connection between heavy marijuana use and CANCER!!!! Even though marijuana has 25 x more amonia, and 5 x more carbon dioxide and carcinogens, all which can cause cancer, there is no relation. Scientists say it may be because of the known chemical THC, research shows it has anti tumoristic properties and kills ageing cells around it before they can become cancerous, and may make a protective barrier, and this is a known fact because i have been reading alot up on marijuana the past year from studies from universities so i dont wanna hear this my own opinion bullshit. The government has been lying to us from day one, there is no reason why it should be illegal. So fuck the US because i know more about whats going on than they think

  9. Anonymous April 28, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    I am a child that uses pot I guess you could say. I find no problem with it at all. It can be a gateway drug, because I myself after trying weed have wanted to try somthing better or higher. But I will not die from using it, I’m not addicted.

  10. Anonymous April 28, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    In my opinion marijuana is and will always be the first drug attempted and is the drug that leads to heavier addicting drugs! Many say that it is a natural drug BUT how natural can this be if it is still a drug! many start with marijuana and lead to more addictive drugs and then wind requiringdrug treatment.

    It is soo sad to see how many children are smoking it and how young they are!

    Lora

  11. Renaisauce April 27, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    Nice try with writing the word “Period”- that almost worked in giving you the last word.

    There’s no way someone should be allowed to post something like “THC is mostly hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, and therefore it’s harmless” and get away with it on a Science-focused site. Do you know what else is made of those molecules? Hemlock. (Also mentioned in the Bible, by the way). Also, carbon monoxide. You want to smoke that stuff? It’s totally natural!

    Now, no one is saying that it’s as dangerous a substance as the stuff in cigarettes, but it certainly isn’t healthy or good. Do you know what it actually does to cells? Look it up. And even then, there are cases (not a few) in which marijuana use was involved in some kind of accident. Do you know how many people who are stoned are more likely to do something stupid? That’s right– all of the ones that can move.

  12. Anonymous April 27, 2008 at 8:51 am #

    PERIOD
    it does no harm unless your allergic to it
    anything is bad for you if you over do it
    even water so unless you overdose yourself with thc (C21H30O20)BASICALLY OXYGEN CARBON AND HYDROGEN
    nothing will happen people used it for centuries to cure diseases its even refered to in the bible
    just do you research before you yourself are “influenced” by these anti-marijuana claims.

  13. Anonymous April 27, 2008 at 7:41 am #

    zero people die a year due to marjauna use

  14. Renaisauce April 23, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    If there’s a legitimate pharmaceutical chemical or two (out of what, 3000?) in marijuana that is unrelated to getting people stoned, then I’m sure that they would jump on (and one would think that they would have looked). Also, I’m confident that drug lords would still do pretty good business.

    Can anyone explain to me why it would be good to have joints around under any circumstances, or can I just put it under the category of “moronic things that people do in spite of warnings” along with cigarettes. Even if they could, is there any reason why anyone should?

  15. Anonymous April 23, 2008 at 11:05 am #

    I will not comment upon marijauna being a gateway or not, nor am I going to comment upon how it can hurt. Instead, I want to talk about the legalization of Marijuana and how it would work out. If and when it is legalized the Government would immidatly put research into it along with corperate pharmacuticals to comment with how they would market it, control it and make it. I doubt they would be selling doobies and more likly find a way to put it in pill form. Then they would put laws down as to age limits and tax laws to make money off of it. This is comment pointed towards the medical use of the drug, not the recreational. Kids would stop buying from dealers who cut their weed with differant chemicals and start stealing Grandma’s painkillers instead. This is not exactly a great change but at least the drug lords would no longer be getting American Kid’s money.

  16. Anonymous April 12, 2008 at 10:08 pm #

    One should always run a spell check prior to posting a comment intended to point out other people’s spelling errors :)

  17. Anonymous April 12, 2008 at 2:04 pm #

    marijuana should be legalized. so many people die. on the other hand, it is your choice whether you decide to leep on using it or you can just stop.

  18. Anonymous April 11, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    GRINGO FLEETO

  19. Anonymous April 11, 2008 at 7:09 am #

    ok maybe if you could learn how 2 spell and make actual sentances people might, just might listen to you. But until then shut up!

  20. Anonymous April 11, 2008 at 7:04 am #

    why do people smoke pot anyway i tryed it 1nce i dint do it again im not adickted so what the hell why such a big fus i think it shoukld be leaglised and regulated so it dont get laced and become harmfull
    tobaco is more harmful to your body that marijuana
    whats up with thst tobaco is legal y shouldent marijuana be legal

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