Sunday, 5 September 2010

Gateway Theory Debunked … Again!

New research finds little support for the hypothesis that marijuana is a "gateway" drug leading to the use of harder drugs in adulthood.

You have to feel sorry for people who have learning difficulties. Especially those who bang on and on and on about cannabis being a “gateway” to harder drugs.

It seems that no amount of evidence will stop over zealous, dip-shit anti-drug pundits from spreading their lies and propaganda. Not even those pesky scientists who keep proving them wrong, will keep them quiet.

I wonder what their response will be to the latest study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire who once again disproved “The Gateway Theory”? Somehow I doubt if we will hear much about it. When was the last time you heard a politician or anti-drug group declare they were wrong or the “The Gateway Theory” is obsolete? When was the last time you read about it in the mainstream media?

So, why do they persist? Most people or groups who constantly reject medical research and scientific evidence are usually just written off as nutters but some of these zealots will go to great lengths in a desperate attempt to push their disingenuous cause. Even to the point of using junk science. For example:

In contrast, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy’s “2008 Marijuana Sourcebook” clearly states that recent research supports the gateway hypothesis, specifically that “its use creates greater risk of abuse or dependency on other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine”.

Of course, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy aka The Drug Czar is notorious for dishing up government sponsored propaganda. Remember, this is the group that manages the "War on Drugs" for the US and the UN. Maybe if they spent more time reading up on the available scientific evidence instead of sifting through volumes of anti-drug propaganda they would come to a different conclusion. Nah, who am I kidding?

It is hard to keep the same attitudes to cannabis prohibition when Obama and the two previous US Presidents are known to have smoked cannabis. Perhaps cannabis is a gateway drug after all * the drug that young Americans have to try if they want to become President of the USA.

Ironically, there is some truth about cannabis leading to harder drugs but not for the reasons quoted by the gateway theory supporters. It’s actually the policies pushed by these supporters that are to blame. Simply smoking cannabis doesn’t make someone automatically want something stronger or harder. It’s the association with drug dealers that smokers are forced to endure because of our strict drug laws. Some of these dealers will undoubtedly sell harder drugs, giving way to pressure to try another drug. Pot smokers are forced underground where all drug users are grouped together by a society that doesn’t separate soft drugs from hard drugs. Most pot smokers never go on to harder drugs nor do they want to but being forced underground with addicts, criminals and speed dealers exposes them to a world that they normally wouldn’t encounter.

Teen Pot Smoking Won't Lead to Other Drugs as Adults
Study Shows Marijuana Isn't a 'Gateway' to Other Drugs as Teens Turn Into Adults
By Salynn Boyles. Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
September 2010

New research finds little support for the hypothesis that marijuana is a "gateway" drug leading to the use of harder drugs in adulthood.

Teens in the study who smoked marijuana were more likely to go on to use harder illicit drugs, but the gateway effect was lessened by the age of 21, investigators say.

Harder drugs in the study referred to illicit drugs that include analgesics, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers.

The study is published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Failure to graduate from high school or find a job were all bigger predictors of drug use in young adulthood than marijuana use during adolescence, says study researcher Karen Van Gundy, who is a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire.

She adds that the findings have implications for policymakers on the front lines in the war on drugs.

"If we overly criminalize behaviors like marijuana use among teens, this could interfere with opportunities for education and employment later on, which, in turn, could be creating more drug use," she tells WebMD.

Marijuana's Gateway Effect Goes Away
Van Gundy says she did not set out to disprove the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug when she and co-researcher Cesar J. Rebellon examined survey data from 1,300 mostly male Hispanic, white, and African-American young adults who attended south Florida public schools in the 1990s. The participants were followed from enrollment in the sixth or seventh grade until they reached their late teens or early 20s.

"Most of the previous research has examined early drug use among people with serious drug problems," she says. "These people do tend to progress from alcohol and marijuana use to other drugs."

When the teens in the study were followed forward into young adulthood, however, a different picture emerged.

"We were somewhat surprised to find the gateway effect wasn't that strong during the transition to adulthood," Van Gundy says. "It really didn't matter if someone used marijuana or not as a teen."

Specifically, the study found illicit drug abuse in young adulthood to be much more closely linked to stress during the teen years and whether or not the young adults were employed.

"Assuming and occupying conventional roles, such as 'worker,' may close the marijuana gateway by modifying and redirecting substance use trajectories," the researchers write.

The Fight Against Drugs
The findings suggest anti-drug efforts aimed at keeping kids in school and providing employment opportunities may have the biggest positive impact on drug use in adulthood, Van Gundy says.

Urban sociologist and drug-use researcher Lesley Reid agrees.

An associate professor of sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Reid's research has focused on the gateway effect of so-called club drugs like ecstasy and cocaine among heavy drug users in their 20s.

She says most of these heavy users do start with alcohol and marijuana and progress to harder drugs.

"Obviously, we don't see this age effect among these heavy users," she tells WebMD. "But in the general population most people do outgrow behaviors like drug use and other delinquent behaviors."

'Gateway' Pioneer Critical of Study
But Columbia University sociologist Denise B. Kandel, PhD, whose research early in the decade found marijuana to be a gateway drug, calls the new research highly flawed and the conclusions "ill founded."

She tells WebMD that the design of the study did not allow the researchers to properly test the hypothesis that marijuana is a gateway drug.

Kandel does not disagree with the conclusion that social position in young adulthood plays a big role in drug use during this time. But she says the researchers fail to consider the potential impact of early marijuana use on social position.

"Using marijuana as a teen can certainly have an impact on whether or not someone fails to graduate from high school or gets a job," she says. "And this increases the risk of persistent illicit drug use."

Supporters of “The Gateway Theory”
With all the readily available evidence to debunk “The Gateway Theory”, you would think that only crackpots like Drug Free Australia (DFA) would keep pushing this farce. But this is the scary part - many officials funded by the public purse continue to cite “The Gateway Theory” as a fact. How can police ministers, police chiefs, politicians etc. continue this lie when our very own National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) don’t support it? NCPIC aren’t exactly without bias themselves but at least they acknowledge that “The Gateway Theory” is dubious at best.

Most people who use illegal drugs, like heroin or amphetamine, first used drugs like alcohol, tobacco or cannabis. These substances, but most usually cannabis, are seen as a 'gateway' to the use of other, more dangerous drugs. However, the vast majority of people who do use cigarettes, alcohol or cannabis never use other illicit drugs. For example, while the majority of heroin users have used cannabis, only around 4% of cannabis users have used heroin.

Below is a collection of quotes from people or groups who support the “gateway” myth. You may notice that most of them are paid by you via your taxes.

This paper seeks to provide an introduction to the available literature on cannabis and the issues arising from cannabis use today, including: a description of the drug and its use; the increased potency of cannabis in the market; cannabis as a “gateway” to harder drug use; the issues of dependence and withdrawal; the significant cannabis harms on mental health, brain function and development, and physical conditions such as cancer; and, the problems encountered when trying to quit cannabis and the generally poor outcomes today.

It does cause psychosis, it does destroy families and it is a gateway drug to heavier use.

For many young people, cannabis can be used as a ‘gateway’ drug into more dangerous illicit drugs, with most heroin and cocaine users first experimenting with cannabis and research showing regular cannabis users are 140 times more likely to advance to stronger drugs than people who had not tried cannabis.

Amongst drug users, cannabis is very widely recognised as having been their gateway drug into heavier drugs.

Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs

Those of us who have worked in the field for many years know that marijuana is a 'gateway drug'
--Brian Watters. Salvation Army

I look forward to the next session of Parliament, because then I will not have to listen to the hypocrisy of the Hon. Richard Jones in continuing to berate tobacco use while condoning the use of the world's greatest gateway drug, marijuana.
--Malcolm Jones MP (Dec 2002)

Marijuana is a gateway drug

Ample research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia and can be a gateway to harder drugs

That was not considered to be the case 30 years ago, but now it has been proven that cannabis is a gateway drug.

Targeting cannabis use as the first drug in the chain towards drug abuse (based on the ‘gateway’ theory) was also identified as a key element.

Moreover, marijuana is a “gateway” drug

Cannabis has been known and identified as a gateway drug, leading to the use of more and stronger drugs to get a greater kick

The report refers to cannabis as a gateway drug—
The long-term impact will be the use of other, stronger, quicker and equally destructive drugs such as heroin, amphetamines and ecstasy.

This has a lifelong impact on their families, it has an impact on crimes that are committed as illicit drugs are used, especially where it is a gateway drug, and it has an impact because of the sheer cost involved in caring for someone with schizophrenia through their life.

Cannabis is also known to be a gateway drug. Multiple studies have shown that the use of cannabis on an ongoing basis creates the risk of abuse of other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

About 40 per cent think cannabis is always addictive, and one in five said it is always a gateway to harder drugs. 

The other obvious argument is that in America, 80 per cent of marijuana users go on to using cocaine. So it is clearly a gateway drug.

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Anonymous said...

Not surprised at all... infact the only surprising thing regarding all hysteria / voter seeking behaviour by policymakers/politicians is how fuckin stupid they are..Its like they still think we live in the 30's or an era when they could bullshit out of their arse and no one would no any better or take their word as gospel,as access to information/science/truth was reserved to a privileged elite and social engineering was as malicious as the corporate world needed it to be...
I for one would be very interested to view the so called "data" that Colin Barnett trumpets on about marijuana induced schizophrenia...who did the research?,why they did the research?,are they in some shape or form connected to christian extremists like Margaret Court and George Oneill are?,do they have vested interests in criminalizing as much human behaviour as economically viable? ( maybe they have shares in Geo Group or Wackenhut privatized prison industry)?
Will they publish the countless benefits marijuana has on the body?
The problem is that these evil control freaks will not stop until they achieve their private goals even if that means ,filtering threatening yet truthful information on controversial issues like euthanasia (banning Philip Nietzsches site ) or abortion or drug policy...
I guess a stupid/uninformed population is easy to control than an educated one ,perhaps thats the reason why they made University so inaccessible via the most effective of control mechanisms= money.. fingers crossed those independants go Labour/greens way
otherwise we'll find ourselves in a "Dark Ages Renaissance" with Holy Tony at the helm

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.

Yes, it's scary how far some politicians will go to push their own agenda. They don't seem to grasp that the internet can be used by anyone to check their claims. Just claiming something is so doesn't work in this age of information.

BTW, thanks for acknowledging Christian extremists like Margaret Court and Dr. George O'Neil.