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Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?

Much has been said about the potential of marijuana use to cause addiction to other drugs. Proponents of recreational marijuana point to the lack of physical addiction potential of marijuana as evidence that marijuana cannot lead to addiction. Indeed, there is a great amount of anecdotal evidence that a vast majority of marijuana users do not begin using harder drugs. However, researchers have found that marijuana does, in fact, create a stronger possibility that a person will eventually develop a problem with other drugs.

The likelihood that a person will develop a drug problem highly depends upon when they begin using marijuana. According to Science Daily, a 2018 University of Montreal study found that “If you started smoking marijuana at the start of your teens, your risk of having a drug abuse problem by age 28 is 68 per cent, but if you started smoking between 15 and 17 your risk drops to 44 per cent.” The study looked at data for 1,030 boys every year between the ages of 13 and 17, then again at ages 20 and 28. According to research, “the younger they started, the more likely the boys had a drug problem later as young men. This is partly explained by the frequency with which they consumed cannabis and other drugs, but those who started before age 15 were at higher risk regardless of how often they consumed.” The research also found that the risk of developing a drug problem by age 28 was almost doubled with each year of onset cannabis use before the age of 15.

A study using longitudinal data from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorder found that marijuana use is linked with developing or worsening alcohol use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “adults who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than adults who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within 3 years; people who used marijuana and already had an alcohol use disorder at the outset were at greater risk of their alcohol use disorder worsening.” However, the connections between marijuana and other substance use disorders may not be as direct as is often suggested. The NIDA explains, “An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs.” Other factors, such as social environment and genetics, also play a major role in determining future substance use disorders.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together the highest quality behavioral health and addictions specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to help clients develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431