Why Smoking Marijuana Doesn't Make You a Junkie
Two recent studies should be the final nails in the coffin of the lie that has propelled some of this nation's most misguided policies: the claim that smoking marijuana somehow causes people to use hard drugs, often called the "gateway theory."
Such claims have been a staple of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under present drug czar John Walters. Typical is a 2004 New Mexico speech in which, according to the Albuquerque Journal, "Walters emphasized that marijuana is a 'gateway drug' that can lead to other chemical dependencies."
The gateway theory presents drug use as a tidy progression in which users move from legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco to marijuana, and from there to hard drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Thus, zealots like Walters warn, marijuana is bad because it leads to things that are even worse.
It's a neat theory, easy to sell. The problem is, scientists keep poking holes in it -- the two new studies being are just the most recent examples.
In one National Institute on Drug Abuse-funded study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh tracked the drug use patterns of 224 boys, starting at age 10 to 12 and ending at age 22. Right from the beginning these kids confounded expectations. Some followed the traditional gateway paradigm, starting with tobacco or alcohol and moving on to marijuana, but some reversed the pattern, starting with marijuana first. And some never progressed from one substance to another at all.
When they looked at the detailed data on these kids, the researchers found that the gateway theory simply didn't hold; environmental factors such as neighborhood characteristics played a much larger role than which drug the boys happened to use first. "Abusable drugs," they wrote, "occupy neither a specific place in a hierarchy nor a discrete position in a temporal sequence."
Lead researcher Dr. Ralph E. Tarter told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "It runs counter to about six decades of current drug policy in the country, where we believe that if we can't stop kids from using marijuana, then they're going to go on and become addicts to hard drugs."
There's more. Follow the link in the headline above...right after ya twist yerself a fat one...