Study says marijuana no gateway drug

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

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.

402 thoughts on “Study says marijuana no gateway drug”

  1. I SMOKE A **** TON, AND I F****** LOVE THIS ****!!!!! NEVER BEEN CAUGHT AND NEVER WILL!!!! N******!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Your friends moved on to harder drugs because your friends wanted to do harder drugs. Smoking weed does not make you want to do other drugs, but wanting to do other drugs is the reason people do other drugs. Also there are many intelligent and successful people who smoke cannabis. But you never hear about those people because they don’t help the anti-pot movement. I don’t want to sound some kind of radical and like I only spout baseless conspiracy theories, but half the things most people know about cannabis is wrong. Sadly though, the burden of proof is on the pro-pot movement. People believe the governments lies and misleading statistics. Like they say most people who go to rehab do it for pot when most people who go are court-ordered to in order to avoid jail or go to avoid losing their jobs. Only about 9% of people become addicted and the withdrawal symptoms are mild so unless someone has an underlying cause for why they smoke they usually can quit easily without help. Also, marijuana does not make you stupid or lazy. If someone is lazy they will be lazy when they smoke. If someone has a hard time in school they will have a hard time in school, but that isnt to say that getting high wont make it hard to take in new information. It’s up to that person to take personal responsibility and understand that cannabis can alter short-term memory and that smoking 24/7 when you are having a hard time in school is not the best of ideas. They can only blame themselves for their own problems in life when they could have quit anytime they want.(Then again if they get arrested for possession and can’t get a job I blame the cops for that. Cannabis should be legal but I do concede that the user does have to take some responsibility for being caught in the first place.)

  3. 31/2 centuries ago,my ancestor developed hemp paper,so fine that, not only was he granted the position of Director of the first U.S.Mint,his fondness for astronomy was immortalized on our nations flag.His paper press in Philadelphia made him a “patriot and Hero”(according to Ben Franklin).He is David Rittenhouse.
    Fast foreward to 2004,I am arrested and jailed for 6 months for using the same plant to treat a diagnosed psychological disorder.He was a patriot,I am unemployable(according to my piss test)

    sincerely go f*** yourself Uncle Sam,Michael Rittenhouse Rigby

    • Yep, f our Government, you have to realize within the next 30 years, maybe 40, everything will change, I’m positive that marijuana will be legalized withing the next 5, everyone will start to realize that the Government serves no purpose to us. It was established by the people, for the people, since over half of American’s want it legalize that have no choice. I mean, what it seems like they want to do is lock up half of America. Also realize, all you people who think this hurts our youth, you cannot hide the bad in the world from them, know that there are gangsters on every corner killing each other, know that there is a gun shop on every corner, know that there are porn stores on every corner, yet no one talks about those things. To compare any of those thing to marijuana is a joke that I laugh at every time I think about it. This is ridiculous, and until everyone sees that the government just want to control everything, nothing will ever change. REVOLUTION!

  4. I know everyone says that pot isn’t like addicting or whatever but if it’s not addicting why was it all that ran through my head when I tried to quit so many times before I actually found a program that really worked for me? I was what you would call and complete an utter “pothead!” I smoked when I woke up, I smoked before and after I ate a meal, I smoked before bed! All I did was smoke weed! Then one day something happened to me and I realized, ” ideally have to stop!” I was spending sooooo much money and wasting my life away with marijuana! So I searche the Internet for ways to stop. I bought multiple programs before I gave up and just kept on smoking. Then one day my brother told me about the program he had ordered a few months back. He had been clean for 57 days and is still counting! I was so proud yet so Jealous but before all of that, I was curious how he found something that worked and I didn’t! So I ordered the ” Caninis Coach: Quit Smoking Marijuana 5-disc Audio program for myself. I mean, I had already spent a couple hundred on things that didn’t do crap for helping me, why not spend $40 for something that had worked for my blood? I am now 42 days sober and getting ready to start attending the Paul Mitchell hair school I had been wanton to attend since as far back as I can remember! I am so proud of myself and I wish that anything with a marijuana habit could see what being sober and doing something with your life does to a person! I am so happy! No more depression, no more anxiety, no more other drugs just to try and get my mind off the green! I think that anyone who’s really serious about getting sober and being somebody who can say “I’m proud of myself!” should be serious enough to spend $40 to kick your habit for the rest of your life! Atleast go to the website and check it all out! I can give you my 42 days sober word, if your serious about it, this program is definitely the way to go!!!

    Here’s a link for anyone interested,


    • Different people have different aspects on thing and you became addicted … I have’nt and I’ve been smoking herbs for several years now… Its just you

    • Cannabis is NOT addictive, however tobacco is, so are the chemicals used when growing non organic. Therefore if you are addicted to something, I suggest you find out what you are genuinely addicted to and stop blaming the one thing that can cure any addiction.

      Ignorance is not bliss it is simply ignorance, try educating yourself and stop being a sheeple.

    • Nice marketing effort. Too bad your claims are not supported by science. Go sell your “Snake Oil” somewhere else.

    • you used a program to quit weed? You are weak and watch too much TV weed is mentaly addictive just like TV or the Internet. You suck as a person.

  5. 1. A UCLA study was unable to link marijuana use with cancer so that argument is out
    2. You cannot overdose and die from marijuana use.
    3. It is only a gateway drug because it is grouped and sold along with the other illegal drugs.
    4. It is less addictive than caffeine.
    5. 20 million americans smoke it so it isn’t going away!

    Is there really any good reason it shouldn’t be legalized?

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  8. I would just like to point out that the title of this page is “study says marijuana no gateway drug.” I agree though that marijuana isn’t a gateway drug.

  9. i think it depends on the person some people like me smoke pot and thats it we are happy with it then there are other people who will stop at nothing to get a better high everytime so eventually they start doing more hardcore things..heres my blog about medical marijuana http://medical-marijuana2.blogspot.com/


  10. Hi,
    I went through your article and it seems very interesting. I have written a blogpost based on my personal experiences of having taken marijuana and what sort of cognitive and psychologically positive effects it could have. I would like you to go through it and would be great if I could get some sort of feedback on it. Thanks.

  11. Overcoming Common Drug Rehab Problems
    If you or a loved one is considering drug rehab, you may find that many day to day problems complicate your choice. Below are some concerns that come up regularly when a prospective patient is entering rehab and suggestions for how one might resolve these problems…

  12. I am working at Utah drug rehab center and there are a lot of people especially teenagers who are comming every year in order to treat their drug addiction.When asked how they’ve started taking drugs,lots of them answered that everything started with marijuana.First for curiosity,than for pleasure and finally as a habit.

    • These statements are not equivalent:

      1) Most people who go on to abuse hard drugs first try “soft” drugs.

      2) Most people who try “soft” drugs will go on to abuse hard drugs.

      Not at all.

      Of course people don’t go from drinking soda pop to injecting crystal meth. They try alcohol, tobacco, and pot first; the first two being legal and the last correctly perceived as non-addictive except in people who would get addicted to anything.

      And most people who try pot are like me. I tried it. A few times. It was interesting enough to try a few times but not more than that. It’s just not a very compelling drug. It doesn’t act on the pleasure centers of the brain, so that is no surprise. I certainly had and have no intention of getting addicted to nicotine, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, or anything else that’s really addictive; I have no intention of trying them; never have, never will.

      • I also have no particular intention of smoking pot again. It was interesting. Not worth getting busted over or even the fuzzy feeling it left in my head.
        Basically, it put me to sleep. Melatonin does that better.

        • Not worth getting busted over until, you require it for medical purpose, then it is more than worth getting busted over.

          I use it for medical, and with the latest science, it should be available to every single person on our planet to use, to prevent and cure almost any illness.

          Perhaps if everyone started thinking of Hemp/Cannabis as the valuable herb it is and stop thinking of it as the rebellion of their younger days, we might actually get somewhere in this debate.

          Personally I am sick of those who used during their teens as a sign of their rebellion against authority, yet today demand it stays illegal when most of us use it medically, not to get stoned/drunk.

  13. Earlier we have only ethical drugs ,after than some companies introduced general companies in Pharmaceutical Industry.Now is going to generic from big companies like Ranbaxy, Cipla,Elder. Those companies only thinking for money, better previous like ethical method is best for people for fast releaf who ever suffer from disease.


  14. I have blazed for a few years and even done some halusnagens. Yet I found that it wasnt until Tobacco was rolled into joints that my friends started going down hill. We went from hiking and hangingout in the wilderness to trying to be super cool and smoke cigs in more dingy places. I am in my 2nd year of University and havent smoked pot for a year and a half. Yet all my friends who started smoking cigerettes heavily are still in my home town with no job. Cigerettes are a gateway to being a lazy, unhealthy, and toxic smelling skid. Very few heavy smokers are succesful in todays society becuase they use them symbolically to better themsleves instead of actaully doing it. Cigs dont span creativity or help in medical use, and we have to pay taxes to pay for smokers healthcare….. Yet they are legal.

  15. I’ve tried almost every drug I ever came across. It wasn’t because pot was a gateway it was because I was lied to by adults my whole life about pot so when I eventually tried it I no longer believed what was said about cocaine, ecstasy, etc.

    Alcohol is the only drug that I have ever had a bad experience with.

  16. anyone who says marijuana is a gateway drug is an ass….or a republican.

    pot just makes an already weak person an even weaker piece of ****.

    I’ve smoked for many years and have come across many weak people.
    they smoke and turn into zombies.
    i smoke and want to do things….make things…read….figure things out.

    it doesn’t make me want to shoot heroin or snort coke.

    it DOES, however, make me want to eat cheeseburgers and play video games sometimes.

    • So you are criticizing both sides of the argument with biased opinions. According to you, anyone agreeing with marijuana as a gateway is an ass; but, everyone smoking it is a lazy zombie. Oh, except for you, of course…..even though it makes you eat cheeseburgers and play video games. lol. Get your story straight, son.

      • Uhh Leon, I don’t think you and I are reading the same post. It looks like Warren is saying that there are two types of pot smokers: Those who are mature enough to handle it and those who aren’t.

        You should get your facts straight before you criticize and condescend others, son.

  17. Marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug. All the junkie scum I know started with pot and went balls deep with the filthier stuff.

    • It’s all in the company you keep. I have been a pot smoker for 15 years and NEVER ONCE tried anything harder that weed. None of my friends ever did either, so I believe its in the company you keep. My brother started with weed and moved up to harder stuff before hitting the bottom with crank, but he hung out with a lot of people that didn’t like the mellow high that weed gives you and wanted something to keep them going all freakin’ night, so again, you have a case of “It’s all in the company you keep”. Weed is NOT a gateway drug… Just about everything besides it IS. Get your head straight.

    • That’s funny, because all the junkie scum *I* know started with milk when they were kids. By your reasoning, milk’s more of a gateway drug than marijuana.

      • Seriously flawed “logic.” Milk? That doesn’t even make sense. So, you’re saying food is a gateway drug?

        • It’s called an analogy. He’s pointing out that you can’t call marijuana a gateway drug just because some people you know smoked marijuana and later did other drugs for the same reason you can’t say milk is a gateway food because everyone drinks milk before they drink soda.

    • Well what the f*** is wrong with YOU that you know so many junkies. I don’t know any junkies, only people who smoke pot

  18. I work in rehab as a drug and alcohol counsellor and I am a reformed cannabis smoker and poly drug user. My professional and personal experience would contradict this report.

    A control group of 214 can hardly be truely representative can it?

    • maybe for you but in my own experience also, alcohol was drank before i smoked pot, i have had the desire to snort coke, and shoot up heroine when the time finely came, i said naw, im good. still smoke weed. been 8 years, and shrooms are the only other drug i like…alcohol is the gateway drug kids grow up with it from parents. my own dad would trick me into drinkin beer i still am disgusted by its flavor. weed is an amazing antidepressant and helps with my migraines. alcohol gives these two to me the next morning. maybe your failing cause you should look at teaching control instead of desolation of drugs, teach people to use for the effects of enhancing their life not to escape it or fly away in some dream

      • hi I am 17 and I smoked marijuana before ever drinking alcohol. I still can get weed easier then alc. I enjoy both, alc for when i’m doing doing mindless partying and weed for when I want to just hangout. I think weed is way more available because there are designated people you can get it from. I just want to put my voice out there and say that a lot of my friends did weed before tobacco and alc. (I deeply dislike people who smoke tobacco) none of us have ever done anything harder then “weed” (I believe alc is harder then weed but that’s my opinion, also I’ve never heard of anyone dying on overdose or quitting..) I can think of 3 people who have done stronger drugs then weed they all were heavy drinkers usually blacked out often

    • Speaking of representative samples, how do you fail to see the sample bias of your own interactions? You’re a drug and alcohol counsellor (though it’s odd that you separate alcohol from drugs), so naturally those you come into contact with are the ones who have had problems with drugs. I doubt someone who recreationally smokes marijuana but has refused other drugs offered to them would turn to you for counselling. They don’t because they don’t need your assistance.

      What you’re saying is basically the equivalent of a marriage counsellor saying that all marriages are doomed, because they only ever deal with troubled marriages. It’s not true, just as your experiences tell us little about the actual causes of drug abuse.

    • “A control group of 214 can hardly be truely representative can it?”

      Yet you expect your single misspelled internet testimony to be more compelling somehow?

    • And who is to say that an addictive personality is not to blame? Some people taste chocolate and are hooked, than they get fat, diabetes, have a heart attack and die. Now should we call chocolate a drug just because someone can’t control cravings?

      I not insulting you I just hate that one experience for a person should be all we think about.

    • Because your control group of 0 compared to your experimental group of 1, combined with your personal bias in the experiment, would like to argue with their data?

    • Really?

      So we should listen to your obviously biased, unscientific, personal observations instead of the findings of a real scientific study?


    • The worst non smokers are ex-smokers, the worst non drinkers are ex-alcoholics, the worst non racists are ex-racists, the worst non drug users are ex-drug users and so on….
      So I contend that it is more hypocritic than anything when one of these begins to teach against any of their old habits.
      I suppose you teach how the Alaskan Indian is the most susceptible to alcoholism and the worst alcoholism in the nation is in Alaska.
      Do you know where the least alcoholism is…. Utah, do you know where the highest suicide rate in the nation is…. you guessed it Utah.

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