Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Cannabis Leaf in Santa Cruz CA

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there is some evidence to suggest that cannabis could precede the use of other licit and illicit substances leading to the development of addiction to other substances. However, the majority of people who use cannabis do not go on to use other “harder” substances.

It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs. Further research is needed to explore this question.

Marijuana is the most popular and easily accessible illegal drug in the U.S. today. So people who have used less accessible drugs (heroin, cocaine, LSD) are likely to have first accessed marijuana and other more accessible drugs, including alcohol. But the use of one does not cause the use of another.

Most people who try marijuana never go on to use any other illegal drug, and the vast majority of those who do try another drug don’t become dependent on it, or go on to have associated problems.

For most people, marijuana is an endpoint in drug use rather than a so-called “gateway drug.” New evidence suggests that marijuana can even serve as an “exit drug,” helping people to reduce or eliminate their use of more harmful drugs such as opiates or alcohol by easing withdrawal symptoms.

Learn more about the NIDA’s position on marijuana as a gateway drug, here.

by Therapeutic Healthcare Collective