As a former addict who’s used heavy drugs I’m frequently asked “is marijuana a gateway drug?” Drug abuse prevention programs utilize this strategy to demonize an otherwise benign plant. “Marijuana isn’t dangerous, but it will lead to more dangerous drugs.” With all the propaganda and lies such programs have given us, it’s hard to differ the truth from fiction. So what is the truth from a former addicts perspective?
Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug?
As a former addict and someone who’s worked with many addicts I can tell you this, you’d be hard pressed to find a hard drug user that didn’t start with marijuana. Very few addicts decided to up and try cocaine as their first drug. It does happen, but it’s extremely rare. This implies to the public that marijuana’s a gateway drug. However, with a little common sense and analysis it’s easily noted that this is an ignorant assumption with little backbone. There’s very little premise to backup this claim that hard drug use was a direct results of the effects induced by dosing THC.
What else could of caused them to use harder drugs?
The Legal Status of Marijuana:
Marijuana’s current legal status makes the only source of the substance illegal drug dealers. Because people are forced to purchase from people who sell illegal drugs, they’re given access to various illegal substances. It’s not irrational to think if they’re offered other drugs at some point curiosity combined with ease of access won’t get to them.
THC, the active compound in marijuana, is stored in the fat and as a result is detected through drug screening after much longer periods of abstinence than with other illicit drugs. Someone who’s charged with possession of a marijuana may have random drug screening as a term of their probation which may cause them to substitute other substances that stay in your system 2-3 days instead of 30 days. This may cause them to use substances the illegal drug scene gives them access to. It can cause them to use amphetamines, opiates, MDMA, even alcohol (yes ladies and gentlemen, alcohol is a hard drug). Another consequence is this has created a market for research chemicals like the infamous “K2” which are sold substitute the marijuana high without being detected in drug screens. These research chemicals are extremely dangerous.
I know what you’re thinking, “why use anything at all?” The fact of the matter is, before the brain is fully developed at the age of 25 decision making centers in the amygdala instead of the pre-frontal cortex. This means that decisions are based more off emotion than logic. This is why a 16 year old who commits assault is charged differently than an adult. Sure the logic is, “just don’t use anything,” but logical responses aren’t always rational.
Propaganda “The Devil’s Lettuce”:
People are lied to about marijuana and no one knows why. Marijuana is one of the most benign and medicinal drugs on the planet yet people who use it are looked down on. It’s listed as a schedule 1 for having no medicinal value while meth, heroin, and crack are schedule 2 compounds. The current drug policy labels people who smoke pot as criminals more so than people who smoke meth. All this demonizing of the plant does little to differentiate it from dangerous drugs. Alcohol is far more dangerous than marijuana yet we see commercials which glamorize consumption of it. Xanax is far more dangerous yet doctors give it out like it’s candy. When you lump marijuana in with all of the other dangerous drugs out there there’s a mass miscommunication. It’s easy to see how someone will be more likely to give into curiosity regarding other substances. If they were lied to about marijuana, what’s to say they weren’t lied to about ecstasy?
I hoped this article helped answer “is marijuana a gateway drug?”
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Philip Markoff (Associate of Science) is an online influencer and thought leader on addiction education; he is known as his alias “CG Kid” who’s obtained a large audience primarily on YouTube as a vlogger and journalist. His current sobriety date from polysubstance chemical dependency is June 9th, 2013.