Whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug has been debated for years. Advocates of marijuana legalization have argued that marijuana is in no way associated with future use of harder drugs. However, there is yet another study that recently shows this not to be the case, at lease with regard to prescription painkillers.
This information comes at a time when several states are in the process of legalizing marijuana for adults, or considering putting the issue on the ballot. And while no state is looking to make marijuana legal for adolescents, it previous surveys have found that it becomes more prevalent and they have greater access to the drug.
The recent survey was conducted with 11,000 children and teenagers who were asked a series of questions related to their drug and alcohol use. Included in these questions was whether or not they had used prescription opioids in the past 30 days and if they had ever used marijuana. The survey was specifically looking to see if there was a connection between marijuana use and prescription painkiller use. After the data was collected, it was discovered that out of 11,000 participants, 524 had used prescription painkiller in the last month. Of those 524 children and teenagers, 80% had used marijuana prior to using painkillers.
And while this certainly does not mean that if you use marijuana you will definitely use opioids, it does a show a link. Teenagers who use prescription painkillers are more likely to have used marijuana first. This information may provide a guideline for parents and educators for prevention measures.
Additional information synthesized from the study shows that teenagers who drink alcohol and use tobacco products in addition to opioids are much more likely to have started out with just marijuana. Stopping a child when they are smoking marijuana is likely much easier than stopping a child when they are addicted to prescription drugs, where more serious interventions may be needed.