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Mon May 5, 2014, 07:18 PM

The "gateway" myth debunked

Last edited Mon May 5, 2014, 08:16 PM - Edit history (3)

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/marijuana-is-gateway-drug-theory-debunked-again

For decades, prohibitionists have claimed that marijuana is a “gateway drug” that inevitably leads to use of harder substances like heroin and cocaine — despite the fact that every objective study ever done on the gateway theory has determined that it’s absolute crap.

Last week, researchers at the University of New Hampshire released yet another study discrediting the gateway theory. Their findings, based on survey data from more than 1,200 students in Florida public schools, showed that a person’s likelihood to use harder drugs has more to do with social and environmental factors than whether or not they’ve ever tried marijuana.

edit to correct: The researchers found that the strongest predictor of other illicit drug use appears to be race-ethnicity, not prior use of marijuana. Non-Hispanic whites show the greatest odds of other illicit substance use, followed by Hispanics, and then by African Americans.


New Hampshire study: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-09/uonh-rom083110.php

Whether teenagers who smoked pot will use other illicit drugs as young adults has more to do with life factors such as employment status and stress, according to the new research. In fact, the strongest predictor of whether someone will use other illicit drugs is their race/ethnicity, not whether they ever used marijuana.


iow - it's lack of employment opportunities, NOT MARIJUANA that creates the lack of opportunity and the stress this implies.

Conducted by UNH associate professors of sociology Karen Van Gundy and Cesar Rebellon, the research appears in the September 2010, issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in the article, "A Life-course Perspective on the 'Gateway Hypothesis.' "

"In light of these findings, we urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the 'drug problem,' " Van Gundy and Rebellon say.

The researchers used survey data from 1,286 young adults who attended Miami-Dade public schools in the 1990s. Within the final sample, 26 percent of the respondents are African American, 44 percent are Hispanic, and 30 percent are non-Hispanic white.


Once young adults reach age 21, the gateway effect subsides entirely.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/marijuana-a-gateway-drug-scientists-call-theory-half-baked/

Scientists say "gateway theory is bunk

http://www.drugscience.org/sfu/sfu_gateway.html

...A study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, researchers found no gateway effect for marijuana. Surveying 17,000 drug users over a 10-year period, they reported that marijuana use typically began between the ages of 18 and 20, and cocaine use began between 20 and 25. Moreover, they found that there was not much variance among those who used cocaine in comparison to if they had previously used marijuana. There were substantial individuals who had used “soft and hard drugs”, but the association was related to personal characteristics and a tendency to partake in experimentation (Golub & Johnson, 2001).


This study demonstrated that arrest, lack of education, and employment put someone on a path to more involvement with illicit drugs - iow - the underground economy - with the proximity of other drugs as part of that economy - was the greatest predictive factor, while supportive social structure, education and opportunity were deterrents.

The Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report - "Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana—usually before they are of legal age.

In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway" drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, "gateway" to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. An important caution is that data on drug use progression cannot be assumed to apply to the use of drugs for medical purposes. It does not follow from those data that if marijuana were available by prescription for medical use, the pattern of drug use would remain the same as seen in illicit use" (Joy et al. 1999)

A more recent study based on national survey data also does not support the hypothesis that increases in marijuana use lead to increased use of more dangerous drugs among the general public. In the American Journal of Public Health, Andrew Golub and Bruce Johnson of the National Development and Research Institute in New York wrote that young people who smoked marijuana in the generations before and after the baby boomers do not appear to be likely to move on to harder drugs. The researchers said that these findings suggest that the gateway phenomenon reflects norms prevailing among youths at a specific place and time.


Those who came of age in the 1990s did so when medical marijuana was made legal - a trend that continues. Previous studies in CA indicate that marijuana use leveled off when marijuana became "normalized" rather than stigmatized - and when it was available in markets that would exclude other illegal substances.

"Marijuana culture" in places like CA also stigmatize pharmaceutical drug use because such substances are not herbal/organic.

On the other hand, Golub and Johnson found:

Research also suggests that the “gateway theory” does not describe the behavior of serious drug users:

“The serious drug users were substantially different from high school samples in their progression of drug use. The serious drug users were less likely to follow the typical sequence identified in previous studies (alcohol, then marijuana, followed by other illicit drugs). They were more likely to have used marijuana before using alcohol, and more likely to have used other illicit drugs before using marijuana. We also found that atypical sequencing was associated with earlier initiation of the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana and greater lifetime drug involvement. These findings suggest that for a large number of serious drug users, marijuana does not play the role of a 'gateway drug'. We conclude that prevention efforts which focus on alcohol and marijuana may be of limited effectiveness for youth who are at risk for serious drug abuse” (Mackesy-Amiti et al. 1997)


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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply The "gateway" myth debunked (Original post)
RainDog May 2014 OP
Scuba May 2014 #1
Scootaloo May 2014 #2
FiveGoodMen May 2014 #3
RainDog May 2014 #4
1StrongBlackMan May 2014 #7
RainDog May 2014 #9
1StrongBlackMan May 2014 #12
RainDog May 2014 #14
1StrongBlackMan May 2014 #5
RainDog May 2014 #6
1StrongBlackMan May 2014 #8
mike_c May 2014 #10
RainDog May 2014 #11
Politicalboi May 2014 #13
RainDog May 2014 #15

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:23 PM

1. Marijuana is clearly a gateway drug ...

 

... a gateway off alcoholism, for one thing.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:24 PM

2. Well, my experience with marijuana led to experimenting with other psychoactives...

 

But then I only did marijuana because I was interested in the use of such substances, so it was already a pre-existing trajectory; marijuana was just way easier to get than iboga - and once you know some people who know some people...

Haven't felt any desire or interest whatsoever in "hard" drugs. If I wanted to "shut off," I take a nap.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:28 PM

3. I think you've nailed it.

Most people who drown themselves in the ocean start by wading into the water.

But that doesn't make wading a Gateway to Suicide.

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Response to Scootaloo (Reply #2)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:35 PM

4. also - people who test out with high IQs are more likely to experiment

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/high-iq-kids-later-try-drugs-more-11-11-22/

Having a high IQ may have its drawbacks: a new study finds that highly intelligent children are more likely to try illegal drugs in their teenage and adult years. The work is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. [James White and G. David Batty, "Intelligence across childhood in relation to illegal drug use in adulthood: 1970 British Cohort Study"]

An ongoing study that started in 1970 gathered data from 8,000 people, including their IQ test scores at ages five and 10. Participants later reported their history of illicit drug use at age 16, and then again at age 30.

Men with high childhood IQs were 50 percent more likely to use drugs than their low-scoring counterparts. And women with high scores were more than twice as likely to have tried controlled substances.


I don't think experimentation is necessarily bad - most everyone who does so stops a lot of "risk-taking" behavior when they take on adult responsibilities. They just need to be informed about possible drawbacks (not false "gateway" propaganda.)

But, again, you have smart kids who happen to be in poverty situations that afford them little opportunity - so, like Kurt Schmoke said long ago - these are entrepreneurs in a market that allows them entry, while they are shut off from other opportunities - this is the real gateway - lack of opportunity.

Legalize and put the tax revenue toward education, especially among "at risk" populations due to poverty or lack of social support, etc.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #4)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:57 PM

7. Interesting ...

 

My only concern with this result/finding is not related to the finding at all; but rather, related to the "justice system's" treatment of those higher scoring experimenting youth.

Whereas, the experimenting PoC, when caught, receives a criminal conviction that will likely ruin his/her future; his/her white counter-part, is likely to receive a status offense, if that.

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Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #7)

Mon May 5, 2014, 08:03 PM

9. Yes. That's how I misread the initial info

Because I know, as Michelle Alexander has noted, that drug laws are a form of "Jim Crow" laws with mandatory minimums, etc.

Where you live can impact your entire future. If someone is in Louisiana, he or she can serve a life sentence for three arrests for simple possession. In states with decriminalization laws - this doesn't happen.

But stop and frisk laws in NY and Chicago have had just as much impact as traditionally conservative states - so it's not simply about living in a more liberal state - it's about targeting urban populations rather than suburban kids.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #9)

Mon May 5, 2014, 09:21 PM

12. Yep ...

 

targeting urban populations rather than suburban kids.


But to be more accurate, targeting urban populations, specifically, and just disparate treatment of People (Kids) of Color whether, urban or suburban, in general.

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Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #12)

Mon May 5, 2014, 09:53 PM

14. The ACLU report on this laid it out

http://www.aclu.org/billions-dollars-wasted-racially-biased-arrests

OVER-POLICING

Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system.

WASTED TIME AND MONEY
Enforcing marijuana laws costs us about $3.6 billion a year, yet the War on Marijuana has failed to diminish the use or availability of marijuana.

STAGGERING RACIAL BIAS
Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2013/06/04/marijuana_possession_laws_aclu_report_why_blacks_are_four_times_more_likely.html

The report finds that between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million marijuana arrests in the United States, 88% of which were for possession. Marijuana arrests have increased between 2001 and 2010 and now account for over half (52%) of all drug arrests in the United States, and marijuana possession arrests account for nearly half (46%) of all drug arrests. In 2010, there was one marijuana arrest every 37 seconds, and states spent combined over $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws.

(The article talks about "Stop and Frisk" policies as a reason for the increase in possession arrests.) You can blame a lot of this on the controversial “broken windows” theory of policing, which essentially maintains that minor violations beget major ones, and that you can combat violent crime by rigorously enforcing small quality-of-life offenses. You can also blame data-driven police initiatives like COMPSTAT, which meticulously track crime statistics on a precinct-by-precinct basis. In theory, programs like COMPSTAT are supposed to promote accountability, and a more precise deployment of police resources. In practice, they put cops under tremendous pressure to show continuous improvement in their precincts, and, as such, condone arrest quotas, stop-and-frisk policies, and other tactics that look good on the stat sheets even as they wreck neighborhoods.

But you can also blame the federal government. While the current federal drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has spoken about the need to treat marijuana use as a public health matter rather than a strictly criminal one, others in the federal government aren’t nearly as progressive. The ACLU report talks about a federal program called the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, which doles out funding to police departments in large part based on the number of drug arrests they make. With municipal budgets strapped, police departments depend on these sorts of federal grants. The “public health” approach to marijuana will never be viable as long as JAG funding and similar programs are essential to departments’ survival.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:48 PM

5. Not exactly ...

 

The study found:

The researchers found that the strongest predictor of other illicit drug use appears to be race-ethnicity, not prior use of marijuana. Non-Hispanic whites show the greatest odds of other illicit substance use, followed by Hispanics, and then by African Americans.


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Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #5)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:54 PM

6. You're right. I'll edit that

I was conflating arrest figures with this data in my head.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #6)

Mon May 5, 2014, 07:59 PM

8. Yeah ...

 

I was going to get into the disparate effects of the arrest figures.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #10)

Mon May 5, 2014, 08:27 PM

11. What if the difference was seeing the world as your park - or your cage

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon May 5, 2014, 09:22 PM

13. The ONLY reason it could be a "gateway" drug is

 

Because the house you buy it at may have some cocaine to sell you. That's how it's gone for decades. If you go into a liquor store to buy cigarettes, the guy behind the counter is not going to whip out some cocaine and ask you if you want to buy some. The ONLY reason for gateway, is it's illegal to buy pot in the open.

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