Saturday, May 30, 2009

MILK: "The Gateway to Alcoholism"

The hed (above) is of course true, once you accept the "post-hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. It is meant to highlight the incredible logic of the folks who claim marijuana is 'the gateway drug' to using (and always, by implication of course, "abusing") heroin, cocaine, meth, and the rest of the illicit pharmacopoeia.

While it is probably true that people who eventually use (though not necessarily abuse) those other substances used marijuana 'first,' so it is equally likely--and equally valid to claim--that drinking milk "led" destructive alcoholics to their addiction, too. It's perfect illustration of the old statistical wheeze: correlation does not equal causality. Because, of course, many more people--probably MOST of them--who "used" milk in their youth did NOT go on to 'abuse' liquor than those who did. (Right: Mother, sowing the seeds of her child's future drunkenness.)

The folks at Alternet put up a discussion of this issue yesterday, which makes the necessary point in much lengthier style than I have here. Here's the "nutz":
In 1999, the National Institute on Drug Abuse commissioned a major study on medical marijuana conducted by the venerable Institute of Medicine, which included an examination of marijuana's potential to lead to other drug use. In simple terms, the researchers explained why the gateway theory was unfounded:
Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana -- usually before they are of legal age.

There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.
In 2006, the University of Pittsburgh released a more thorough study in which researchers spent 12 years tracking a group of subjects from adolescence into adulthood and documented the initiation and progression of their drug use. The researchers found that the gateway theory was not only wrong, but also harmful to properly understanding and addressing drug abuse:
This evidence supports what’s known as the common liability model, an emerging theory that states the likelihood that someone will transition to the use of illegal drugs is determined not by the preceding use of a particular drug but instead by the user’s individual tendencies and environmental circumstances.
Of course, the simplest refutation of the gateway theory is the basic fact that most marijuana users just don't use other drugs. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports:
More than 100 million Americans have tried marijuana; 14.4 million Americans are estimated to be "past-month" users. Yet there are only an estimated 2,075,000 "past-month" users of cocaine and 153,000 "past-month" users of heroin. [DrugWarFacts] (Emphases supplied. W)
Clearly, people who use marijuana overwhelmingly do not move on to other drug use. That's why the number of people who use marijuana will always be more than 10 times greater than the number of people who use cocaine, heroin, etc. The fact that marijuana users rarely become involved in other drug use is right here in front of us.
There's more, a couple of pages, but the point is pretty clear: "If you want to prevent alcoholism, you must stop feeding milk to babies.", wait...

1 comment:

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