Marijuana - Destroying lives, families & society

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Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug

Dangers of Marijuana - Why it's considered a "gateway drug".

One of the dangers of marijuana is that it is considered a "gateway drug". That is, those who use marijuana are more likely to move on to "harder" and more dangerous drugs like heroin and cocoaine. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that the younger someone is when he or she uses marijuana, the more likely he or she is to use other drugs when they reach adulthood. Here's how some of the "harder" drugs compare in terms of use:

  • Cocaine: 62 percent of adults who had used marijuana before the age of 15 have used cocaine at some point during their lives. For those who had never used marijuana, that number is 0.6 percent.
  • Heroin: Those who use marijuana in youth are more likely to use heroin. That number is 9 percent as compared to 0.1 percent for those who had never used marijuana.
  • Psychotherapeutic drugs: 53.9 percent of those who used marijuana before the age of 15 report that they have also tried to use psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical uses. The rate for those who have not used marijuana is 5.1 percent.

It is clear that marijuana use can predispose people for substance abuse later in life. It is clear that with 2.1 million people using marijuana for the first time each year, this is still an issue.

Source: Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Although dangers exist for marijuana users of all ages, risk is greatest for the young.

For them, the impact of marijuana on learning is critical, and pot often proves pivotal in the failure to master vital interpersonal coping skills or make appropriate life-style choices. Thus, marijuana can inhibit maturity.

Another concern is marijuana's role as a "gateway drug," which makes subsequent use of more potent and disabling substances more likely. The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found adolescents who smoke pot 85 times more likely to use cocaine than their non-pot smoking peers. And 60 percent of youngsters who use marijuana before they turn 15 later go on to use cocaine.

But many teens encounter serious trouble well short of the "gateway." Marijuana is, by itself, a high-risk substance for adolescents. More than adults, they are likely to be victims of automobile accidents caused by marijuana's impact on judgment and perception. Casual sex, prompted by compromised judgment or marijuana's disinhibiting effects, leaves them vulnerable not only to unwanted pregnancy but also to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Marijuana Dangers

  • Impaired perception
  • Diminished short-term memory
  • Loss of concentration and coordination
  • Impaired judgement
  • Increased risk of accidents
  • Loss of motivation
  • Diminished inhibitions
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Damage to the respiratory, reproductive, and immune systems
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Psychological dependency

Source: American Council for Drug Eduction's


New research confirms that marijuana is a "gateway drug" for most teens who use it.

Some will tell you marijuana is a harmless drug, but the Journal of the American Medical Association isn't one of them.

Young people who smoke marijuana are two to five times more likely to move on to harder drugs. That is the formal opinion of researchers, who published their conclusions from a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

It is also the informal conclusion of two recent high school graduates who said they no longer smoke marijuana, but that most of the kids they smoked pot with in high school went on to harder drugs and aren't able to hold jobs.

One of the young persons said she started smoking pot because of peer pressure, but she stopped out of concern for her parents.

"I realized how bad it disappointed my parents," she said. "My dad cried and so I stopped."

The JAMA study followed 311 sets of identical twins, one smoked pot while the other did not. Twins were chosen to help rule out a genetic or social explanation for the "gateway effect". Almost half of the young people who started smoking marijuana before 17 went on to use harder drugs later in life. The study is the latest to suggest the link between marijuana and other drugs like cocaine and heroin. However, Howard Simon, of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said regardless of the evidence some still dispute the findings.

"But the one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that for young kids, to be even 'dabbling' with marijuana is just not a good idea," Simon said.

He added he still thinks "Just Say No" is the best policy.  "Regardless of the first drug that is used, what we want to see is kids choosing not to use any of these substances," Simon said.  But experts say a good drug policy isn't enough. They say parents need to be open and consistent with an anti-drug message.

Marijuana, a so-called "gateway drug", is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States and tends to be the first illegal drug teens use.

It's a widely held theory of drug use and abuse that there are stages of progression, from tobacco and alcohol to marijuana and from marijuana to other illicit drugs. Studies of drug abusers seem to bear the theory out: "Very few individuals who have tried heroin and cocaine have not already used marijuana and the majority have already used tobacco and alcohol," says Denise Kandel, a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University.

Source: Drug Rehab Rhode Island

National Study Shows "Gateway" Drugs Lead to Cocaine Use

"This study--the most comprehensive national assessment ever undertaken--reveals a consistent and powerful connection between the use of cigarettes and alcohol and the subsequent use of marijuana, and between the use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana and the subsequent use of cocaine and other illicit drugs," said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA's  (The National Center on Addition and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) president and former HEW (Health Education and Welfare) secretary.  The CASA study establishes a clear progression that begins with gateway drugs and leads to cocaine use: nearly 90 percent of people who have ever tried cocaine used all three gateway substances first. More than half followed a progression from cigarettes to alcohol to marijuana and then on to cocaine.

The CASA study also concludes that the earlier a child starts to use these "gateway drugs", and the more frequently, the greater the likelihood of using hard drugs. For example, children who smoke daily are 13 times more likely to use heroin than children who smoke less often.

  • Children who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than non-marijuana users.
  • Children who drink are 50 times more likely to use cocaine than non-drinkers.

"Ultimately, prevention is our only hope for stemming the tide of new addicts. If we can keep our children and teens from smoking, drinking and using marijuana, then we can go a long way towards preventing the use of all dangerous drugs," said Califano

Source: Columbia University Record

Q: Does marijuana lead to the use of other drugs?

A: Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana. For example, the risk of using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have never tried it. Using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs. So there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more drugs.

Source:  Marijuana: Fact for Teens