Study says marijuana no gateway drug

December 4, 2006 |

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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410 Responses to Study says marijuana no gateway drug

  1. Anonymous January 2, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    To me whether it’s a gateway drug or not isn’t really the issue. Smoking marijuana has more than enough negative effects in its own right, without having to use the excuse that it may lead to using other drugs, as a reason not to abuse it.

    Marijuana Addiction Forum

  2. Anonymous December 31, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    The punishment for having weed is ridiculous…all states should make under 1oz a civil matter not criminal…

  3. Anonymous December 28, 2008 at 2:09 am #

    Thank god! Let people smoke whatever the fuck they want. I’m tired of these conservative tight asses who give into propaganda, and now fear a PLANT. Why don’t you try lighting up a ‘marijuana cigarette’ and see what all the fuss is about? I’m 100% sure that after that, you’ll wonder what the big deal is. Alcohol destroys you, it’s legal, and available everywhere. Why don’t you bitch about that?

    (By the way, all the liberals KNEW what they were voting for, and it feels soooo good.)

  4. Anonymous December 17, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    hell ya there is nothen wrong with it

  5. Anonymous December 4, 2008 at 7:24 pm #

    i know doctors teachers hell i smoked with my teachers if u think weed is a gateway drug its because you are a weak willed person. i been smoking weed for almost 9 years now and i never once thought o damn now i want exstacy so no your wrong its the person that chooses. If weed is a gateway drug what was the gateway drug you used that started you on weed?
    if you had an urge to do drugs in the first place dont blame the weed blame yourself for being a fucken idiot no shit your going to want to do more drugs u started off wanting to do drugs so put the blame where it belongs on yourself

  6. Anonymous December 1, 2008 at 9:08 pm #

    The only people that voted for proposal 1 were all the liberals that did not know what they were really voting for. Marijuanna is now going to be used constantly by people who do not need it in the first place. Now they have a reason to grow it in their own homes. They could very well be selling it to other people, and will get away with it, because it would be too hard for the police to track down.

  7. Anonymous November 30, 2008 at 10:01 am #

    Prohibition causes Cannabis to be a gateway drug. Without prohibition there’d be no dealers on the street saying “You wanna try something stronger?” So prohibition has caused Cannabis to be a gateway drug, however, there’s nothing IN cannabis that makes you want to do something else. It is the person who chooses it, and it is the dealer who made it knowledge to you.

    Stick to pot, it doesn’t kill you. Alcohol kills, tobacco kills, cocaine kills, heroin kills, Tylenol Kills.

    Stick to pot.

  8. Anonymous November 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    I smoke weed all the time it lead me to doing mushrooms mushrooms lead to doing ecstasy and lsd and they lead to cocaine i dont care what any stoner has to say ( which I am) pot is a gateway drug and im not saying everyone that smokes weed is goin to do other drugs im just saying u dont meet many ppl that have done ecstasy or acid that didnt try weed first noone just decides one day im gonna try ecstasy they get the feeling of what drugs are like and weed is virtually impossible to have a bad reaction off so the persons like well if pot did that to me something better will be even funner, but weed to me makes it easier not to do other drugs because i dont feel in the party mood I just wanna watch movies and eat so weed leads to and prevents you from doing hard drugs if that makes sense to neone. my advice is this try lsd E mushrooms once and stick to weed cocaine is proly better to leave alone………..stay in school kids

  9. Anonymous November 10, 2008 at 8:19 pm #

    I blame Citizen Kane (aka William Randolph Hearst and his opposition to people making profits off of hemp farms – which he did not own – instead of lumber – which he did own) and Puritans.

  10. Anonymous November 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm #

    I was searching on the web and I found an article that said in 1974 a U.S. Government study was conducted on lab rats that had cancerous tumors was extensively test with marijuana smoke. When the test was complete the cancers shrunk which lead to believe that marijuana is like the miracle drug that cures cancer. Later in 1997 studies on marijuana proved that people who have cancer benefits from medicinal marijuana because the cannabinoids in marijuana reduces the rate of reproduction of the cancer cells and will shrink the cancer. It is cheaper than synthetic cancer meds that are more expensive ($800 a pill) and less effective than the naturally grown marijuana.
    As for the addiction. Marijuana is just as addictive as eating chocolate. Those of you who love the to eat a whole box of chocolate in one shot. There is no chemical like nicotine in tobacco that will make you addicted. I simply do not see how it is addictive. I think it’s the habit simply rolling it, lighting, and smoking it. Some people just eat it and like the taste… So what I want you guys to do is when you read an article saying how ‘addictive’ marijuana is, just replace “marijuana” with “chocolate” and “smoking” with “eating”. So basically you are now criminalizing chocolate instead of marijuana.

  11. Anonymous November 5, 2008 at 2:09 pm #

    The whole thing was a racist law!!against Mexicans and Blacks. same reason opium-chinese and cocaine- blacks are illegal..*Doesnt kill brain cells* and hemp is actually considered to be the most Useful plant known to Man.look it up

  12. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    marijuana does not impair memory in the slightest. every single time i have smoked i have perfect recollection of the events that took place. i smoked every day at band camp and i was able to memorize seven minutes worth of music and complicated drill charts in a week. also, marijuana is not addicting either. your body does not become dependant on it no matter how much is consumed. however you “can” become psychologically addicted. i say “can” because i don’t believe in psychological addiction. anything that on THINKS they are addicted to can be overcome. studies have also shown that the majority of people who smoke marijuana regularly, stop around the age of 35. therefore, the statement “i can quit i just don’t have a need to.” does not count as psycological addiction. they really don’t have a need to. if there arises an occasion that it is imperative that they quit, then i guarantee that they have the ability to. it’s all will power. make sure you have the facts, check out

  13. Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    The chemical in marijuana that gets one high is called THC. Now, if you research that you will find that THC is theoretically impossible to overdose on. One would have to consume a third of their body weight to “die”. This cannot be tested therefore, it is theory. So, I do not believe you when you say you know someone who has died from marijuana. Even smoke inhilation would not kill a person. It will lessen the strength of one’s lungs over a long time, similar to cigarette smoking, except marijuana DOES NOT cause lung cancer. There has not been a single report saying that marijuana ALONE has caused cancer. Any one who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and has smoked marijuana has also smoked cigarettes. The only way I could be convinced that you know someone who died from marijuana, is if they did something stupid while high. However, that would mean that the person is stupid or has no self control. I have smoked before, and therefore I can maintain self control, no matter the amount of THC consumed. Well, that concludes my rant to prove you wrong. If you, or anyone for that matter thinks I am wrong, check out Notice the .org tag, that means that it is an official site, unlike the .com sites where anyone can post whatever they want and have it misconstrewed as fact.

  14. Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 5:45 pm #

    This is a tough issue to decide on because of the implications that marijuana has in our society. Although I have never partaken in experimenting with any marijuana or required to take any for medicinal purposes; I do believe that marijuana should be legalized. After researching and looking at both sides, I feel that there are more pros for legalizing marijuana then cons.
    I believe the primary reason we should legalize marijuana is because it will save our government tons of money. In the United States all levels of government (federal, state, and local authorities) are involved with “War on Drugs.” We currently spend billions of dollars every year to prevent people from using marijuana. We then have to pay for housing, food, clothing, court costs, and other expenses to lock these people up. Our nation could save billions of dollars every year if we legalize marijuana. The government would actually be able to tax marijuana and would be able to spend that money to pay for effective drug education programs and other important causes.
    The second major reason is that there is no good evidence that prohibition decreases drug use. “Prohibition of marijuana doesn’t work. It has only spawned an enormous black market, eroded our civil rights and corrupted our justice system (” It is actually easier for some high school students to obtain marijuana than it is for them to obtain alcohol, because alcohol is legal and therefore regulated to keep it away from kids. “If our goal is to reduce drug consumption, then we should focus on open and honest programs to educate youth, regulation to keep drugs away from kids, and treatment programs for people with drug problems. But the current prohibition scheme does not allow such reasonable approaches

    to marijuana; instead we are stuck with ‘DARE’ police officers spreading lies about drugs in schools, and policies that result in jail time rather than treatment for people with drug problems (”
    The final reason is because it can be used as medicine that shows new promise for reducing neuropathic pain and in helping patients with AIDS to stick with their multiple-drug regimens. It can be used to treat patients for various diseases. I strongly believe that more good can come out of legalizing marijuana in the long run. Individuals should have the right to decide for themselves and should understand the consequences of using marijuana.

  15. Anonymous October 17, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    Marijuana of course is a natural medicine. Something that grows out of soil with no human involvement is obviously natural. Alcohol is a man made invention and far more dangerous than Cannabis. When anyone smokes marijuana they become extremely peaceful and creative. I am 16, a smoker myself, and I don’t see why it is sad that younger people are smoking cannabis. They can see the truth behind the governmental spun lies. It sounds like you’ve gotten most of your information from mainstream media.I suggest you use a search engine to find different resources, in order to ponder on other ideas and opions. Better yet, go to a music festival, try some of the holy bud, and have a blast!

    Have a grateful day!

  16. Anonymous October 10, 2008 at 12:41 am #

    Marijuana is illegal for the simple fact that the government makes more money off it by locking people up than they would by taxing it

    The gov’t makes about $30,000 off each inmate, well over 10 million a year.
    Most people are locked up because of a charge including marijuana.

    You say marijuana is a drug because that is what the gov’t refers to it as.

    If you check your sources a drug is any substance that alters your physical state and/or state of mind. Therefore making cigarettes and brew a drug.

    I would rather see my kid hitting a bong rather than seeing him smoke a cigarette.
    At least i know marijuana isnt going to hurt him as bad and it will ease their mind.

    If marijuana was legal, youd still have the choice of buying a pack of joints or not. JUST LIKE CIGARETTES AND ALCOHOL.

    Hell, ALCOHOL should have remained illegal and cannabis legal.

  17. Anonymous July 28, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Of course weed isn’t a gateway drug, you know why? BECAUSE THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A GATEWAY DRUG!

    Really. Its the most fallacious logic ever sold to the public, and of course people lapped it up. I cant believe anybody ever bought into it. By the same logic it could be argued that breast feeding leads to heroin addiction. Its real easy, watch this: Billy’s a heroin addict, before that he smoked weed, before that he drank beer, before that he drank tea, before that his mother breast fed him… Well, obviously his mother f***ed him up!

    You wanna know what causes hard drug addiction? Taking hard drugs.

  18. Anonymous October 5, 2008 at 7:14 pm #

    The biggest reason marijuana IS a gateway drug is because it’s in the hands of the crooks who deal the hard drugs.

  19. Anonymous February 24, 2009 at 6:53 am #

    I’m not argueing, i think. HAW HAW, but weed is my main drug and i like the feeling i never did anything stupid enough to get to jail or shit it made me calm, they should legalize it!

    WEED IS FUN!!!!

  20. Anonymous April 13, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    Drugs are a health issue. Not a perceived criminal issue that LE would have you want to believe. As with anything, I have observed, follow the money. The LE, prison industrial complex, and Rehabilitation Industry have a lot to lose if drugs were to be decriminalized and treated in a doctor – patient treatment.

    Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.
    – Milton Friedman

    Minister, Universal Life Church


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