Marijuana is said to be a gateway drug, meaning that once you start on marijuana, it will not be long before you start on really hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine. How true is this notion?
Research suggests that heavy cannabis users who started smoking between 12 – 17 years of age are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than kids who have never smoked pot. Is this because of the marijuana substance or because the individual concerned likes to experiment with different mind-altering substances?
Scientists abandoned the idea that marijuana causes users to try other drugs. As concluded by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are casually linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.”
A report into cannabis use in New Zealand found that people who had used cannabis more than 50 times a year were 60 times more likely to try other illicit drugs than young people who had never tried cannabis. However, this particular study could not identify a casual link, with the Committee report concluding: “These findings suggest that cannabis, when used frequently, may be a gateway drug to other illicit drug use, although whether this is a result of a contact with the illegal market or an effect of cannabis use is uncertain.”
Holland is a country that has had a liberal stance on marijuana for decades. The country has fewer pot smokers who move on to hard drugs, compared to other nations. According to research, in the Netherlands about 15 of every 100 cannabis users have tried cocaine in that country, a lower rate than others where marijuana is illegal such as Scotland, Italy, and Norway. The same is true for amphetamine use.
In conclusion, there seems to be a slight link between marijuana (and alcohol, for that matter) and an individual’s moving onto harder drug use, but there is no firm ground to stand on when making claims of the drug’s gateway effect.