Monday, January 18th, 2021

Memo to the New York Times: Pot Is Not a Gateway Drug

Published on April 29, 2016 by   ·   No Comments


Long-time pot prohibitionist Robert L. DuPont just can’t give up the ghost. The former National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) director and author of the 1985 book Getting Tough on Gateway Drugs took to the New York Times this week to opine, “marijuana has proven to be a gateway drug.” But, as others in the NYT debate room noted, available evidence has long since dismissed DuPont’s scaremongering.

Pot Doesn’t ‘Prime’ The Brain

For starters, DuPont’s claim that early cannabis use “primes the brain” so that those exposed to it at a young age will eventually seek out other illicit substances is not substantiated by clinical evidence. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine reported over two decades ago, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other drugs.”

More recently, a report issued by the RAND Corporation, entitled “Reassessing the Marijuana Gateway Effect,” affirmed “[M]arijuana has no causal influence over hard drug initiation.” Authorsconcluded: “While the gateway theory has enjoyed popular acceptance, scientists have always had their doubts. Our study shows that these doubts are justified.”

In fact, despite the recent rise in adult use of marijuana in past years, nationwide use of most other illicit substances, particularly cocaine, has fallen dramatically. Further, surveys of cannabis consumers residing in jurisdictions where the plant is legally accessible find that respondents typically report decreasing their use of drugs like alcohol and prescription opiates.

More Pot, Fewer Opiates

Data published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicinereported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, finding,”States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

Separate data reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015 made a similar conclusion, determining,”[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

Most recently, statistics compiled this month by Castlight Health, a national employee health benefits platform provider, found that that levels of prescription opioid abuse were nearly twice as high in states that prohibited medical marijuana access as compared to those states that allowed it.

Booze and Cigarettes Come First

As for the claim that cannabis use precedes subjects’ use of other illicit substances, recent research refutes this claim as well.

Writing earlier this year in the Journal of School Health, investigators at Texas A&M University and the University of Florida reported that the use of alcohol and tobacco typically precedes cannabis exposure in poly drug consuming subjects.

“[A]lcohol was the most widely used substance among respondents, initiated earliest, and also the first substance most commonly used in the progression of substance use, thestudy concluded. “Prioritizing alcohol prevention: Establishing alcohol as a gateway drug and linking age of first drink with illicit drug use.”

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