A study that was published in the Journal of School Health in 2012, has been gaining attention this week, and this study has shown that alcohol is actually the gateway drug that leads to harder substances instead of marijuana. It has long been said that marijuana, which is also known as weed or pot, is the gateway drug into doing harder drugs like heroin or cocaine, but this new study says that is not true at all, and alcohol is to blame.
This new study is showing that smoking pot is not the indicator that people once thought it was in terms of whether or not someone will move onto harder drugs. The co-author of the study was Adam E. Barry, and Barry is an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Health Education & Behavior. Barry explained the results of the study to Raw Story. The results of the study show that if you delay when a person gets involved with alcohol, the rates of substance abuse, both licit and illicit decline pretty drastically. This study is showing that substance abuse behavior can be more accurately predicted by looking at the drug history of the person, specifically looking at when the person began drinking alcohol. Barry claims that the “Stepping Stone Hypothesis” from many years ago was flawed because the creators of the theory fundamentally misread data, and then failed to conduct a follow-up study to verify the results they came up with. As an author of the study, Barry wanted to look at the early iterations of the whole “pot can lead to other harder drugs” philosophy, and wanted to study whether or not pot really was a gateway drug. While this study did show there is a gateway theory in play, meaning doing one thing can lead to doing harder and more extreme substance, the theory was flawed by focusing on weed. This study points out that the gateway hypothesis starts with a progression from licit substances, like alcohol, and then it moves to the illicit substances.
The results of the study are showing that alcohol use is the indicator of whether or not someone will be inclined to try other drugs. You can also look at it by thinking about the people who have done heroin or are addicted to heroin, meaning the ones that are doing heroin have already tried all of the other drugs out there, both illicit and licit drugs like alcohol. Of course not every person who uses drugs follows the same “gateway” pattern, but the authors of the study took that into account, and found out there were not enough of these cases to change the theory. The researchers were able to accurately predict the future substance abuse behaviors of a person by looking at their initial alcohol consumption with around 92 percent accuracy. The researchers compared the abuse rates between the drinkers and non-drinkers, and found out that seniors in high school that had consumed alcohol at least one time were 13 times more likely to use cigarettes, 16 times more likely to smoke pot or use other narcotics, and also 13 times more likely to use cocaine.
Barry had noted that the rates of marijuana and tobacco use among the seniors in high school were about the same, which confirmed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published previously in June. In terms of what the results of this study mean, it means that people who are involved in the planning of anti-drug programs at junior high schools and high schools need to focus their attention on alcohol use and consumption, instead of making the focus on pot and the “gateway” impact of pot. The findings of this study suggest that focusing more on alcohol and making it more of an issue in anti-drug programs, could actually help keep students off of drugs. Most times alcohol is not thought of as a drug, since it is not against the law and it is also common, so most anti-drug programs do not really touch on how alcohol consumption impacts future substance abuse or use. Since alcohol is viewed as not as harmful as other substances like pot, the students end up using alcohol, and this helps create the beginning cycles of addiction and substance use. A study from 2010, which was published in Lancet, showed that alcohol is the most dangerous drug out of all drugs, including illicit drugs, but the popularity of alcohol and the profits that come from alcohol seem to make policy-makers stay away from getting into the true negative effects of the substance. The 2010 study said that alcohol is worse than heroin, cocaine, pot, meth, and literally every other drug out there, and the study found that the harms from alcohol are twice as much as the harms from heroin, which is the second most harmful drug out there. .Nearly 71 percent of American students have had at least one alcoholic drink in their lifetime, according to a Youth Risk Behavior Study from 2014, which the Center for Disease Control and Prevention had conducted. 39 percent of the students from the study had admitted to having a drink of alcohol within the past 30 days, which showed that alcohol was a very common substance for teenagers, and it shows that people do not take alcohol very seriously in terms of harmful effects or the potential for being a gateway to other drugs.
Overall this study is showing that the old “pot is a gateway drug” statement is very wrong, and was flawed from the beginning because the data had been misread and misconstrued. What everyone needs to look at is whether or not people have started off by using alcohol, and the more someone uses alcohol, the more likely they are to move onto other substances. If you have the addiction gene, then drinking alcohol is going to activate those sensors in the brain, which begins a cycle of using a substance until it stops working, and then moving onto a harder substance to get the same reward feelings in the brain. This study might also help more states legalize pot, since the gateway theory is debunked, and it could help more people become okay with using pot as a relief drug for medical conditions.