A study in the August edition of The Journal of School Health finds that the generations old theory of a “gateway drug” effect is in fact accurate, but shifts the blame for escalating substance abuse away from marijuana and onto the most pervasive and socially accepted drug in American life: alcohol.
Using a nationally representative sample from the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, the study blasts holes in drug war orthodoxy wide enough to drive a truck through, definitively proving that marijuana use is not the primary indicator of whether a person will move on to more dangerous substances.
“By delaying the onset of alcohol initiation, rates of both licit substance abuse like tobacco and illicit substance use like marijuana and other drugs will be positively affected, and they’ll hopefully go down,” study co-author Adam E. Barry, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Health Education & Behavior, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview.
While Barry’s study shows evidence that substance abuse behaviors can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy by examining a subject’s drug history, he believes that the persistent and misguided notion of marijuana as the primary gateway to more harmful substances went awry because its creators — who called it the “Stepping Stone Hypothesis” in the “Reefer Madness” era of the 1930s – fundamentally misread the data and failed to conduct an adequate follow-up.
“Some of these earlier iterations needed to be fleshed out,” Barry said. “That’s why we wanted to study this. The latest form of the gateway theory is that it begins with [marijuana] and moves on finally to what laypeople often call ‘harder drugs.’ As you can see from the findings of our study, it confirmed this gateway hypothesis, but it follows progression from licit substances, specifically alcohol, and moves on to illicit substances.”
“So, basically, if we know what someone says with regards to their alcohol use, then we should be able to predict what they respond to with other [drugs],” he explained. “Another way to say it is, if we know someone has done [the least prevalent drug] heroin, then we can assume they have tried all the others.”
And while that standardized progression certainly doesn’t fit every single drug user, the study took that into account too. “There were a low enough number of errors that you are able to accurately predict [future substance abuse behavior]… with about 92 percent accuracy,” Barry said.
By comparing substance abuse rates between drinkers and non-drinkers, they ultimately found that seniors in high school who had consumed alcohol at least once in their lives “were 13 times more likely to use cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.”
Barry also noted that the rates of tobacco and marijuana use among all 12th grade high school students were virtually the same, confirming a report the Centers for Disease Control published in June, and an analysis Raw Story published in May.
The study should give pause to anyone involved in youth drug awareness programs, as its findings suggest that making science-based alcohol education a top priority could actually turn the tide of the drug war — but only if lawmakers and leading educators decide to use that same science as a foundation for public policy and school curriculum.
“I think [these results] have to do with level of access children have to alcohol, and that alcohol is viewed as less harmful than some of these other substances,” Barry added.
a drug that lowers inhibitions and makes people throw caution to the wind when a lot is consumed is the real gateway drug. SHOCKING. ime for weed its probably 50/50 half did it there first time sober the other half drunk at a party maybe 60/40 though not 100 percent sure. shit like blow ecstacy pills etc its probably 8 out of 10 people who did it there first time were drunk
I've literally been preaching this to certain acquaintances for years who refuse to believe it and still stand by the marijuana gateway drug propaganda. Pretty much every time I get hammered, I begin to crave some blow but I'll take any stimulant I can get. With weed, well, try getting hammered then smoking a bowl and see how you like the spins. Anyways, with weed, I'm always content to munch on something, watch some TV (preferably comedy) and get some shuteye afterwards.
For me, that happened more with the head rushy sativa dominant strains though if I chose indica over sativa while drinking, I'd just pass out early.
Weed made me realize a lot. I mean, hell, even if you try to never associate with anyone who partakes in the usage of illegal drugs, it is almost impossible to avoid being around alcohol usage at least once in your life. I can avoid people that smoke weed by not hanging around them but to avoid alcohol use, I'd have to avoid attending concerts, festivals, eating at restaurants, a lot of my friends, the list goes on and on.
I can support this article by saying that alcohol is much more accessible, much more acceptable than any other drug out there. There is much less stigma associated with alcohol than tobacco even. Alcohol is the real drug people should be worried about, even beyond the gateway drug theory.
Alcohol is the first gateway drug, because it is so accepted and prevalent in society.
But cannabis is one of the most common first "illegal" drugs that people use (partly because it is a relatively mild overall change of consciousness at standard smoked doses, partly because it so available, and partly because it is the least stigmatized illegal drug)
What do you all think are the other most common "first illegal drugs"?
And how is someone's "first illegal drug" different from a "gateway drug"?
Still don't buy it, I think certain people are just more inclined to substance use in general, so of course they're going to have used alcohol and weed in higher levels, and younger, because those are the easiest drugs to get at a young age.
They're fucking up the correlation/causation here by viewing the drugs in a vacuum, instead of taking the individual into account. It's shitty science and wouldn't be accepted if people weren't so desperate to find an excuse to demonize substance use.
The only 'gateway effect' I see is a direct result of prohibition. People try a drug, have an awesome time, see other people having fun, and realize that the DARE bullshit is false, so they start to wonder what else they were lied about to, what else is out there that's awesome, and they start experimenting with other substances. This is a direct product of years of lying to teenagers and saying '1 joint will drive you crazy!' 'one pill will kill you!' once they realize they've been lied to they blow off everything authorities have told them about drugs and go too far in the opposite direction.
But of course, the only way to prevent this is to give kids an honest, factual portrayal of drug use, and we can't have that...
if we are saying that the literal first drug you take for fun is a gateway drug then i would have to say i had a lot of caffeine as a kid before anything else. i also drank before i smoked for the first time
Nope - I know a few others who dread the combo. It's not bad if you've only had a couple of drinks (I find) but get hammered and then smoke some and *barf* + I can't keep my head up. I've had a couple of really bad episodes. I was reckless, stupid and didn't respect my limits (even though I knew them). I learned my lesson the hard way. Sadly, that applies to other drugs/drug combos as well, especially opiates. So much pain and suffering for an expensive little slice of heaven. Maybe if I could buy my fix in a convenience store for a reasonable price I wouldn't bitch as much, but whatever.
Weed was a gateway drug for me but not in the sense that politicians use as an argument to keep it illegal. It was a gateway to other substances bc I came into contact with other drugs through weed dealers with good drug connections. It didn't fill me with some strong desire to try other drugs but it's illicit nature means that people will be far more likely to be exposed to stronger drugs through their dealers and also it's relatively benign nature means people will think they were lied to about it's true risks and think that maybe all drug's risks are overstated.
I agree with the OP. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people consider doing things they would not otherwise do.
I've worked in chill spaces at festivals for drug users that are having bad trips, and the vast majority of the cases that come in are people who are drunk first, then did not limit their accompanying drug dosage, or they mixed incompatible drugs with alcohol. It's always the drunks who do stupid things like this, or get violent. We also had a lot of people doing mushrooms with their alcohol, for some reason. The thought of that makes my stomach turn.
I can only conclude that alcohol is socially acceptable because it makes people more stupid. It's the only reason I can see for the government not making it schedule 1. What therapeutic value does it really have? It kills brain cells for god's sake.
Yeah, his "if a man even looks at another women and lusts after her, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart" line of thought would have been all the rage. Never the type to have multiple sexual partners, those hippies.
Man people are always trying to pin some progressive reason as to why people take drugs. Now sure, there may be some sort of correlation between drinking and trying other drugs, especially whilst you're drunk as there is a lack of critical thinking and inhibitions, but fuck.
People do drugs because they want to, not because they had some beer or a bong.
I just think the whole gateway theory is another way to put the onus of drug taking on a substance as opposed to individual responsibility.
I don't know, I mean I agree that alcohol is more of a 'gateway drug' than Cannabis, but I also think the gateway theory has little affect on whether an individual will do the drugs they do.
I mean the fact alcohol is legal, and an 'encouraged drug' has much more of an affect on the effects it might have in leading to taking other drugs. I mean if alcohol has the stigma of heroin-
I mean I know that it's all relevant as that's the way things are right now, alcohol does have this stature in society, but I think blaming the substance itself is just another poor excuse to make anti-drug people feel better about peoples' desire to take drugs, irrespective of the origin of such desire (which does not come from any sort of 'gateway drug' imo)
Weed definately is not a gateway drug by itself. The main reason its labeled as such is because the act of going to pick up puts people in contact with other drugs which peak their curiosity. If the government was to make weed legal and sell it through dispensaries or at tobacco shops it would eliminate any contact with other drugs that one might find when going through a dealer and statistically youd see a huge decrease in the % of the population addicted to harder drugs. Also word of mouth is way more of a gateway drug than weed, i can tell you that i smoked for the first time at 13 and rarely smoked until 16 when i became a habitual smoker, and inbetween those years i found myself experimenting extensively with coke (which was infact the first drug i ever tried), herion, shrooms lsd and molly/rolls and it wasnt weed that led me to do that, it was hearing from my friends how amazing this drug or that drug is which led me to experimentation.