Stop Calling Cannabis a “Gateway Drug”Kristin Karas
Even though a majority of Americans support legal cannabis use, marijuana opponents are still pushing the rhetoric that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” meaning its use leads to experimentation, and potentially abuse of, “harder”, riskier drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine.
But even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (or “NIDA”), states that “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances.” A closer look reveals what’s keeping the gateway myth alive–for now, at least.
When analyzing what creates a “gateway” to riskier drug use for people, there are a number of factors at play, none of which involve cannabis. Research shows that poverty and poor social environment, association with people who use “hard” drugs, and certain mental illnesses, such as antisocial personality and bipolar disorder, are found to predispose some people to the potential of engaging in riskier drug use. Criminalization and prohibition are also variables that come into play. No research supports the theory that cannabis use is a direct causation to experimentation with drugs that are riskier in nature.
Cannabis opponents are slowly becoming the minority, and the research that is out there heavily refutes their futile claims that cannabis leads to more, “harder” drug use. This is certainly not the case. Cannabis use is relatively benign compared to other substances, as there are no recorded deaths of a cannabis overdose death. Furthermore, as cannabis becomes legal and regulated state-by-state, the black market demand for the plant continues to decline, leading to less potential that someone who purchases cannabis on the black market will also be offered other drugs.
It is environmental factors, and not the substance, that create a “gateway” to further drug use and potential substance dependency, as we stated in this earlier blog. As this knowledge comes to light, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of sensible drug policy–one rooted in human health and compassion, not criminalization and alienation.