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.
A popular debate surrounding marijuana has been whether or not it is a “gateway” drug. A “gateway” drug is a substance can make it more likely that a person will use more drugs afterward, especially those considered to be heavier drugs. Many people have argued that marijuana is one of these gateway drugs and therefore should not become legal in the United States, while proponents of the drug say that such a claim is not true.
Now there is additional information that has been made available indicating that marijuana use does indeed increase the chances for people to wind up using other drugs as well. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute decided to look into this debate to determine if there is any validity to the claims that marijuana is a gateway drug, and their results were published in JAMA Psychiatry.
After studying information gathered from approximately 34,000 adults of a prior survey, they were able to conclude that there appears to be a connection between marijuana use, tobacco, alcohol and other illicit drugs. The study included people from many different age ranges and backgrounds, so it wasn’t just confined to a particular set of people, such as college students, though the effect it has on that population was of interest to some.
“The sample of this study is adults age 18 or above and not necessarily all college students. However, because college students are in an important developmental stage in terms of both physical and intellectual growth, risky use of marijuana and its potential consequence of drug use disorders can have particularly adverse effect on college students,” explained Ziming Xuan, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health.
In addition to this information, the study also pointed out that the use of the drug can result in heavier abuse and dependency. Although this fact has been debated, there definitely are people who become addicted to marijuana and need treatment in order to regain control over their lives.
A new study aimed at determining if young marijuana users are more likely to abuse other illicit drugs has revealed interesting data regarding motivators for these behaviors. Research taken from Monitoring the Future (MTF), a nationwide survey given to young people regarding drug and alcohol use, has shown that boredom can lead to further drug use among teenagers. The study did not reveal if marijuana is a gateway drug, but researchers are hopeful that the information uncovered will lead to more effective preventative measures for teenagers.
“Programs and education efforts, for example, can benefit from knowing that marijuana users who use because they are bored are more likely to use certain other drugs. It may be feasible for prevention programs to address ways of coping with factors such as boredom in order to decrease risk,” explained Joseph J. Palamar, assistant professor of population health at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and participant in the research study.
Tailoring prevention programs to include ways to avoid boredom may help prevent many teenagers from engaging in drug abuse. After school programs, sports, civic groups, the arts and other constructive activities are examples of ways that young people can be involved in life and not get caught up in substance abuse as easily. The study itself was published in the American Journal of Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
While it is still difficult to determine if it is accurate to call marijuana a gateway drug, the study did show that out of the 2.8 million people who admitted to abusing drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, 70% started off smoking marijuana. Joseph J. Palamar included in his interview that addicts addicted to various drugs all seemed to have different reasons for abusing drugs and different paths that led them to that abuse. So, while it is unclear how big of a factor marijuana plays in long term drug use, it is clear that marijuana is the drug of choice for those starting out on a path that ultimately leads to harder, more dangerous drugs.