Stop Calling Cannabis a “Gateway Drug”Kristin Karas
Even though a majority of Americans support legal cannabis use, marijuana opponents are still pushing the rhetoric that cannabis is a “gateway drug,” meaning that its use leads to experimentation with, and potentially abuse of, “harder” and riskier drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine.
But even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (or “NIDA”), states that “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, “harder” substances.” A closer look reveals what’s keeping the gateway myth alive –for now, at least.
When analyzing what creates a “gateway” to riskier drug use, there are a number of factors at play, none of which involve cannabis itself. Research shows that poverty, systemic oppressions, poor social environments, association with people who have problematic relationships with drugs, and certain mental illnesses — particularly mood and psychotic disorders — are found to predispose some people to the potential of engaging in riskier drug use. Criminalization and prohibition are also variables that come into play; no research supports the theory that cannabis use is a direct causation to experimentation with drugs that are riskier in nature.
Cannabis opponents are slowly becoming the minority, and the research that is out there heavily refutes their futile claims that cannabis leads to more, “harder” drug use. This is certainly not the case. Cannabis is very low-toxicity, and there are no recorded deaths of a cannabis overdose death. As cannabis becomes legal and regulated state-by-state, the illicit market demand for it continues to decline, reducing the likelihood of adverse events from unsuspecting buyers accidentally obtaining a synthetic cannabinoid (which is much riskier to consume).
It is environmental factors, and not the substance itself, that create a “gateway” to further drug use and potential substance dependency. As this knowledge comes to light, more and more people are beginning to understand the importance of sensible drug policy: one rooted in human health and compassion, not criminalization and alienation.