A new study came out earlier this week disproving the popular theory that weed is a precursor to harder drugs. Anyone that had to sit through DARE instruction as a child, or listen to their health teacher rail against gateway drugs, is familiar with the theory. After the jump, we break down what the study tells us, and make jokes about the absurdity of the idea in the first place.
The study was conducted as part of the National Drug and Alcohol Research centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and used data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Mental Health Surveys in 17 different countries; so it wasn’t some dinky survey in Umboldt county. Their conclusions:
Initiation of “gateway” substances (i.e. alcohol, tobacco and cannabis) was differentially associated with subsequent onset of other illicit drug use based on background prevalence of gateway substance use. Cross-country differences in substance use prevalence also corresponded to differences in the likelihood of individuals reporting a non-normative sequence of substance initiation. These results suggest the “gateway” pattern at least partially reflects unmeasured common causes rather than causal effects of specific drugs on subsequent use of others. This implies that successful efforts to prevent use of specific “gateway” drugs may not in themselves lead to major reductions in the use of later drugs.
Breaking that down for you: unmeasured normative causes are the main reason that drugs like cannabis are labeled as gateway drugs. That is to say, “gateway drugs” cannot be labeled as the culprit for later drug use because the common causes are also involved, so there isn’t a link to gateway drugs in and of themselves. Basically, saying that marijuana use leads to harder drugs is the same as saying smoking cigarettes will lead to harder drugs or Jamba Juice for that matter. It’s just a nice thing for Health teachers and DARE instructors to say, but the hypothesis itself is flawed, and as this study points out: false. Which means? Well not much, as most frequent users of marijuana will tell you.
Everyone who smokes knew this, but it’s nice to have some empirical evidence to back us up. Read closely teenagers, so you can argue when it’s brought up by your educators [sic].
Suck it Officer Icavan____. She was my dare instructor. And no, I don’t use smack.
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