Should Medical Marijuana Be Considered a Gateway Drug?
There exists a gateway theory to marijuana which used to be called the stepping stone theory. The theory states that already if marijuana itself is not super dangerous, using it will rule to other drugs that are more dangerous. Over the years marijuana has been theorized as a gateway to LSD, Heroin, or Cocaine. Should medical marijuana be considered a gateway drug then?
In reality, the theory doesn’t pass muster. People who use cocaine are in fact likely to have used marijuana, which is more popular by far than cocaine. Medical marijuana does not rule people to use LSD, cocaine, or heroin.
A great analogy is motorcycle riding versus bicycle riding. Compared to motorcycle riding (in this example this is cocaine use), many more people have ridden a bicycle (in this case smoking marijuana). The amount of people who ride a motorcycle (use cocaine) that have also ridden a bicycle before (smoked marijuana) is very high. Bicycle riding does not cause motorcycle riding, however, and increases in bicycle riding will not rule to a higher incidence of motorcycle riding. The analogy spreads to an increase in medical marijuana usage will not rule to an increase in the use of cocaine or other harder drugs.
All the analogy describes is a typical ordern in which events occur, not a causation. Just as riding a bicycle does not rule to motorcycle usage, medical marijuana usage does not rule to cocaine – it’s simply a typical ordern based on a high prevalence activity (smoking marijuana) versus a low prevalence activity (heroin, cocaine, or lsd use).
There have also been some studies in animals looking at an association between THC and the increase of dopamine availability. Researchers have said marijuana is “priming” the brain for heroin and cocaine use. However, no studies have ever shown that “priming” animals with THC injections increases their desire to self-administer cocaine or heroin. The theory has no basis in reality.
Studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse have shown that of the 72 million Americans who have used marijuana (probably more like 100 million since the studies were done), only 17% used cocaine more than one hundred times. This method that for every 100 marijuana users, only one currently uses cocaine.
Marijuana is by far the most commonly used illegal drug in the US today. People who have used less popular illicit drugs, like heroin, cocaine, or LSD, are likely to have also utilized marijuana. The great majority of marijuana users never use any other illegal drug and marijuana is typically an end drug, not a gateway drug.