Studies Show The 'Gateway Drug' is Alcohol, NOT Marijuana

Studies Show The 'Gateway Drug' is Alcohol, NOT Marijuana
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For years there has been the age-old debate comparing alcohol and marijuana, which one is worse for your health, and which one is the real gateway drug. Though they have different patterns of use, legalities, and long-term effects on the body, both substances are used recreationally. So, with alcohol linked to approximately 88,000 deaths per year, (according to the CDC) and deaths linked to marijuana being extremely hard to come by, which of the two is the true gateway to other substances? While marijuana is typically thought of as a gateway to other substances, it’s not always the first thing people choose to experiment with.

Marijuana Or Alcohol- Which Is Worse?

In the 1930’s marijuana was deemed as the prime gateway drug, while anti-cannabis campaigns made sure to outline dangers that can result from the use of cannabis. Utilizing film and literature, these campaigns looked to instill fear into audiences portraying people using cannabis as becoming lazy, drug addicted and holding a lifelong dependency. And while there is evidence to support claims that some drugs may lead to the use of others, recent studies claim that when compared, alcohol is potentially the more hazardous gateway drug.

Researchers at the University of Florida wanted answers. The study was intended to correct some of the stigma and propaganda that has been infecting the American culture.  Their results found that the theory of a “gateway drug” being linked with marijuana was not entirely true. The Guttman scale indicated that alcohol was the main component representing “gateway drugs”. The use of alcohol leads significantly greater to consuming additional substances which included illegal drugs.

Co-author of Raw Story, Adam E. Barry, states, “Some of these earlier iterations needed to be fleshed out, that’s why we wanted to study this. The latest form of the gateway theory is that it begins with [cannabis] 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 the progression from licit substances, specifically alcohol, and moves on to illicit substances.” But the studies at the University of Florida are not the first of their kind. A 2012 study from Yale found that alcohol and cigarettes were more likely than marijuana to allow for further opiate use and abuse.

Alcohol- The Bigger Problem

The study represented data collected from 14,577 high school seniors from 120 public and private schools nationally. The data, collected through the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, tracks drug use trends among youth in the United States. By comparing the rates of substance use of both drinkers and nondrinkers, those who had consumed alcohol at least once 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. Of the students, 72.2 percent of students reported consumption of alcohol at some point in their lifetime, making it the most recurrent and likely used substance.

Educating Teenagers On Alcohol

The results from this and other studies support the idea that alcohol should receive higher attention in school-based substance abuse prevention programs. Comprehending that the usage of other substances could be delayed and impacted could be significant. If there is a higher prevention that comes from teachings and a better understanding of alcohol and the results of its usage, we are educating people about the real dangers of substances, especially alcohol.

Research has begun to find that we hold the wrong idea on what the real gateway drug seems to be. The bottom line is we get to look deeper into and better understand how we view alcohol and its capabilities. How it affects us and what the long-term possibilities and consequences can lead to.


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Danielle Boroumand