Why is weed a gateway drug, or is it?

Published Feb 20, 2019 02:06 p.m. ET

Gateway effect of weed

Marijuana, the gateway drug. What do we mean when we include marijuana as a “gateway” drug? The definition as we find is as follows: while the drug being used itself is not considered addictive, it may, however, lead to the use of other types of drugs that are addictive. It is presumed that the drug itself is, however, habit forming.  

Why is weed a gateway drug?

Here are three theories into why some people believe the use of marijuana to be a gateway drug.

  1. When marijuana is used in the early years of a persons’ life, it can change the reward system of the developing brain. The interest and use of other drugs may seem appealing. When animals were tested the exposure to marijuana encouraged the response for opiate drugs to be more pleasurable. It is presumed that the brain is still developing till around the age of 25.
  2. There is a presumption that “birds of a feather tend to flock together” furthering the temptation that those that hang around with people who sell drugs including marijuana may increase the appeal to try other drugs.
  3. Young people may be at high risk of using other drugs purely due to the accessibility of marijuana being easier to purchase.

When classing marijuana as a gateway drug, the addition of nicotine and alcohol is warranted. This is the cross-sensitization phenomenon. Alcohol and nicotine both tend to seduce the brain to heighten responses to other drugs.

Alcohol has been viewed as the main gateway to other drugs, this is including marijuana. Before the legalization of marijuana there was and perhaps still is a stigma attached to cannabis, there is not for alcohol. Alcohol leads to alcoholism which is a killer when not used responsibly.

The statistics on marijuana being a gateway drug are up in the air. Past studies have suggested that the use of marijuana by either sex in young adulthood did lead to the use of other drugs. The use of marijuana during those young adolescent years suggested that there was an increased probability that prescription drugs could be abused.

Let's question which so called gateway drug is more damaging. Marijuana is not a drug that causes negative biochemical changes in the brain after continued use and using marijuana does not become the main priority of the person's life. There is no issue about the harm that they are causing whether it be to themselves or others. To say you have addictive signs would be that you are acting irrationally when you do not have marijuana in your system. Addiction implies that your physical and mental state are relying on marijuana or another drug.

If you are still wondering if marijuana is a gateway drug, I hope that I have answered the question for you. In my opinion, marijuana does not meet the requirements of the common definition of “gateway” drug.

Be responsible when partaking and remember the choice to use other drugs is perhaps not under the influence of marijuana but something else, who knows, enjoy!

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