Gateway Drug or Myth?
Also known as Cannabis, marijuana has actually been used medically as early as 2700 BC in ancient China. Currently, the medical use of marijuana is subject to many debates, but support is growing for the legalization of the substance for medicinal purposes. How exactly is it used for medical purposes? According to Harvard Medical School, there is a consensus that marijuana can be useful for certain conditions such as neuropathic pain relief, appetite stimulant (especially for patients with wasting syndromes), and control over chemotherapy, induced nausea. Just in 2012, the AMA (American Medical Association) also published a report stating that regular marijuana smoke exposure did not cause adverse effects on lung function, and even improved total lung capacity.
But despite the very promising medicinal uses of cannabis, take note that the effects of marijuana according to some can also cause abuse and dependence, which can lead to many comorbid disorders, including an impairment in social and occupational functioning. Under the DSM-IV-TR, there are 8 disorders associated with cannabis, including psychotic disorders, delirium and anxiety. There if also a general belief that long term use can demotivate an individual to function in everyday life.
The pharmacologically active components of marijuana include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol, the latter of which is associated with the reduction of the undesirable effects caused by THC. Cannabidiol is currently being studied for its antipsychotic and anxiolytic effects. Smoking is the most common means of ingestion.
In the United States, marijuana remains as the most common illicit drug, with over 14 million reported users as of April 2012. Around 9% of this population met the criteria for cannabis associated disorders. Interestingly enough, marijuana consumption has never been a direct cause of fatalities. However, it could be anecdotally linked to a number of multifactorial deaths, especially with accidents caused by consumption of alcohol and other illegal substances, however this eliminates cannabis as the single cause.
But the more controversial issue involving marijuana is whether or not it really is a gateway drug. The gateway drug theory proposes that the use of less harmful (illicit) drugs will lead to the use of more dangerous ones, and even crime. Critics have suggested that this theory suffers from a logical fallacy, wherein the proponents attributed a causal relationship when it was actually just a correlational relationship. But even among the most prestigious journals and hospitals, the issue has yet to be settled. A study conducted by Yale University showed that marijuana can actually be a gateway drug, particularly for prescription drug abuse in males between the ages of 18 and 25. The study focused on patients who reported prescription opioid abuse and of this population, 57% used alcohol, 56% smoked cigarettes, and 34% used marijuana. Those who have used marijuana are 2.5 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs. However, this study received negative reviews from NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), calling it a propaganda.
Although a person who has used marijuana is 104 times more likely to abuse cocaine, remember that correlation is not the same as cause. As early as 1999, scientists have abandoned the gateway drug theory, stating that since marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug, it should come as no surprise that many drug abusers started with marijuana. Smoking and alcohol also usually come before marijuana, so it is not the most common and is rarely the first gateway drug.
What can be the reason behind marijuana’s massive popularity? Taste is one. Those who like the effects of marijuana will surely find more ways of doing it. Another is its illegality. If you can’t find a marijuana dealer, you’re more unlikely to get heroin. But if you build a good relationship with your marijuana dealer, you have a higher chance of scoring some heroin. Gateway? Medical Marijuana is a Natural, reliable medicine when used properly but leave it the hands of dealers and of course you have access to something harder.
In conclusion, there seems to be more support for the debunking of the gateway drug theory as far as marijuana is concerned. We would value your feedback please add your thoughts.