Question of the Week: Is marijuana a gateway to hard drug use?

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 8-17-10

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 8-17-10. http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3022

Question of the Week: Is marijuana a gateway to hard drug use?

The hypothesis that marijuana is a “pipeline” to heroin and other drugs is called the “Gateway Theory.” It asserts that marijuana use leads directly to hard drug abuse.

This concept was questioned in the 1999 Institute of Medicine Report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, which stated,

“There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”

In 2002, British Home Office Research Study 253 looked at the presumed progression of drug use arrived at the same conclusion,

“there is very little remaining evidence of any causal gateway effect.”

The 2006 study “Predictors of Marijuana Use in Adolescents Before and After Licit Drug Use: Examination of the Gateway Hypothesis,” was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and concluded that

“Evidence supporting ‘causal linkages between stages,’ as specified by the gateway hypothesis, was not obtained.”

Finally, consider numbers from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. In 2008, more than 102 million Americans were estimated to have tried marijuana, with 15.2 million of them said to be “past-month” users. There were an estimated 1.8 million “past-month” users of cocaine and 213,000 “past-month” users of heroin. These “past month” cocaine and heroin use numbers are respectively 11.8% and 1.4% of “past month” marijuana users and 1.8% and 0.2% of lifetime marijuana users. If cannabis were a pipeline to hard drugs, wouldn’t these percentages be significantly higher?

These facts and others like them can be found in the Gateway Theory chapter of Drug War Facts at http://www.drugwarfacts.org.

Questions concerning these or other facts concerning drug policy can be e-mailed to mjborden@drugwarfacts.org.


These facts and others like them can be found in the Gateway Theory and Marijuana chapters of Drug War Facts at http://www.drugwarfacts.org.