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The Marijuana Gateway Theory – Smoking Marijuana Leads to Harder Drugs –Researchers Say It’s Not So

posted 12:58 AM EST, Mon September 06, 2010
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The gateway theory – use marijuana as a teen and you’re opening the door to harder drug use down the road. It’s a fairly commonly help belief, but researchers at the University of New Hampshire say it’s probably not true…they say their research shows that teens who use marijuana are no more likely to use harder drugs as adults

Past research, which has supported a gateway theory of marijuana, has been based on studies which looked at adult hard drug users, and then worked backwards to find out about drug initiation in the teen years. Such research often reveals that hard drug users get their start with marijuana – and this has led to the postulation of the gateway theory of drug initiation.

This study, by contrast, started out with 1300 young teens (middle school) and followed up with these students until each was in his or her late teens or early twenties.

So Does Using Marijuana as a Teen Make You More Likely to Use Hard Drugs as an Adult?

According to this latest research – the answer is no.

The researchers found that teens who used marijuana as a teens were no more likely to end up using hard drugs as adults than teens who did not use marijuana.

Although marijuana use as a teen didn’t seem to matter, some factors did increase the risks of hard drugs, such as:

  • Not finishing high school
  • Being unemployed after high school
  • Living with a lot of stress

Lead researcher, Karen Van Gundy of the University of New Hampshire commented on the results with a message intended for drug law policy makers, saying, "Employment in young adulthood can protect people by closing the marijuana gateway, so over-criminalizing youth marijuana use might create more serious problems if it interferes with later employment opportunities…In light of these findings, we urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the drug problems.”

The full research results can be read in the September edition of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

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