Dark Light

Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug Leave a comment

What is a Gateway Drug?

First things first we must define what a ‘Gateway Drug’ actually is. The Gateway hypothesis proposes a causal connection between different classes of drugs, suggesting that the use of “less harmful” substances increases the risk of using “harder drugs.” Certain substances like alcohol, tobacco, and Cannabis are commonly referred to as gateway drugs. According to this hypothesis, the use of legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol can lead to cannabis use, which then paves the way for the use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin.

The hypothesis implies that the use of mild drugs, including those mentioned above, may lead to the use of more potent drugs through a series of stages. This conclusion is drawn from observations that individuals who have used cocaine and heroin have previously used cannabis, and those who have used cannabis have previously used alcohol and tobacco. However, it is important to note that these associations may be influenced by the availability and societal attitudes towards drugs, rather than representing a direct causal pathway.

How does a Gateway Drug
Interact with the Brain?

A gateway drug has the ability to modify the neuropathways in the brain. Studies conducted on animal models of addiction have revealed that animals who initiate the use of specific substances at a young age have a higher likelihood of developing addictive behaviors towards other substances. Postmortem examinations of these animals have shown alterations in certain brain regions, such as the reward system, when compared to normal animals. Consequently, it is inferred that early drug use with certain substances makes animals more susceptible to developing issues of substance abuse with other drugs. These experimental models bear resemblance to observational data in humans, which suggests that individuals who engage in early drug use are more prone to using other drugs later on.

Overall, research largely upholds the idea that the use of Cannabis increases the likelihood of subsequently using more potent illicit drugs, although there are some dissenting opinions on this matter.

The term “gateway drug” gained popularity during the 1980s. The concept behind it stems from the observation that individuals who engage in recreational substance use often begin with cannabis. Some argue that cannabis influences the neural pathways in the brain, leading people to develop a propensity for other drugs. However, there is insufficient evidence to substantiate these claims. While it is true that many individuals use cannabis prior to trying other substances, this correlation alone does not prove that cannabis use directly caused them to experiment with other drugs.

One hypothesis suggests that cannabis, similar to alcohol and nicotine, is typically more accessible and affordable compared to other substances. As a result, individuals who choose to use drugs are more likely to begin with cannabis. A study conducted in 2012 provided interesting insights. It noted that in Japan, where cannabis is not as readily available as it is in the United States, 83.2 percent of recreational substance users did not initiate their drug use with cannabis.

It is crucial to bear in mind that existing research has only established an association, not a causal relationship, between cannabis use and subsequent drug use. This means that there is no evidence suggesting that cannabis use directly causes the use of other drugs. The observed link between the two behaviors could be attributed to factors that commonly influence both behaviors, rather than a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Interested in Growing Cannabis for Yourself? CG Australia source the freshest seeds from top breeders with careful and discreet packaging and local delivery with tracking. Check them out here – https://www.cgaustralia.com.au/cannabis-seeds-australia/ 

The Real Gateway Drug is 100% Legal

Why does Alcohol, the publicly accepted, seemingly safe and legal substance seem to get a pass?

We are all familiar with the idea that marijuana is considered a gateway drug, often emphasized by Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie and anti-drug groups. The argument is based on the fact that 99 percent of illicit drug users reportedly tried marijuana before moving on to other drugs. However, this notion can be somewhat weak when viewed in isolation, as it could also be true that 99 percent of drug users first tried common substances like coffee, soda, or chocolate milk before transitioning to stronger drugs.

To gain a better understanding of this issue, new research published in the Journal of School Health this month offers valuable insights. A team of researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Florida analyzed data from 2,800 U.S. 12th graders who participated in the Monitoring the Future study—an annual federal survey on teen drug use. The researchers aimed to determine which substances teenagers typically used as their first choice.

They give away their findings in the title of their paper: “Prioritizing Alcohol Prevention: Establishing Alcohol as the Gateway Drug and Linking Age of First Drink With Illicit Drug Use.” They found that “the vast majority of respondents reported using alcohol prior to either tobacco or marijuana initiation.”

Not only that, but of those three main substances — alcohol, tobacco and marijuana — kids were the least likely to start using pot before the others.

So, is the Gateway Hypothesis for Cannabis completely false?

The latest DPRC (Drug Policy Research Center) research reveals that the factors contributing to the notion of marijuana being a gateway drug can also be attributed to an alternative explanation. According to this perspective, it is not marijuana use itself but rather individuals’ opportunities and specific inclinations towards drug usage that influence their likelihood of trying harder drugs. The research does not invalidate the gateway theory; instead, it demonstrates the plausibility of another explanation.

In 1999, the esteemed Institute of Medicine conducted a thorough analysis of the evidence and arrived at a similar finding:

The progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood follows a remarkably consistent pattern. As the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana tends to be the first illicit drug that most individuals encounter. Consequently, it is not surprising that many users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana before. Interestingly, the majority of drug users start with alcohol and nicotine before moving on to marijuana, often before reaching the legal age.

In this context, marijuana use can indeed be considered a “gateway” drug because it typically precedes the initiation of other illicit drug use. However, since underage smoking and alcohol consumption typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common or primary “gateway” to illicit drug use. The available evidence does not conclusively establish a causal link between the drug effects of marijuana and the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.

Are Gateway Drugs Addictive?

Gateway drugs are not always synonymous with addictive drugs. In fact, when individuals misuse non-addictive drugs, it can still pave the way for them to explore and potentially become involved with addictive drugs.

This offers an argument that Cannabis is a gateway drug since it is more commonly regarded as a non-addictive compound. However, we must truly identify what makes a drug addictive and if Cannabis falls under this category. 

Marijuana use has been shown to lead to the development of problematic use, referred to as a marijuana use disorder, and in severe cases, it can manifest as an addiction. Recent data indicates that approximately 30% of marijuana users may experience some degree of marijuana use disorder. Individuals who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are at a significantly higher risk, being four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder compared to adults.

Marijuana use disorders often involve dependence, where individuals experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Frequent marijuana users commonly report feelings of irritability, mood and sleep disturbances, reduced appetite, cravings, restlessness, and various forms of physical discomfort. These symptoms typically peak within the first week after quitting and can last up to two weeks. The dependence occurs because the brain adapts to the presence of large amounts of the drug by reducing the production of and sensitivity to its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

So, it is hard to hold the argument that Cannabis could be a gateway drug simply due to it not being addictive since it does hold a relatively prevalent addictive nature even though it may not be perceived that way. 

Is Youth More Susceptible to Addictive Drugs?

It is widely acknowledged that teenagers and young adults are more susceptible to addiction and reckless behavior compared to other age groups. Moreover, when they do fall into addiction, the repercussions are frequently more profound.

To address these issues, a recent gathering of neurologists took place at the “Sixth Annual Aspen Brain Forum: The Addicted Brain and New Treatment Frontiers.” This forum was jointly presented by Science Translational Medicine and the New York Academy of Sciences.

As per the 2015 Monitoring the Future survey, approximately 35 percent of 12th-grade students confessed to consuming alcohol within the last 30 days. Nearly 40 percent of them admitted to being intoxicated in the past year. Additionally, six percent disclosed that they smoke marijuana daily, surpassing the number of tobacco cigarette smokers (5.5 percent), which has been steadily declining in recent years.

The discussions held by neurologists often delve into highly specialized and intricate aspects of the brain, being the body’s most complex organ. However, The New York Academy of Sciences provided a summary of their findings, drawing on new research to highlight specific conclusions about addiction among teenagers and young adults. Moreover, novel ideas on how to prevent and treat addiction in this demographic are also emerging. Here are some key takeaways from the forum.

Equip young individuals with factual information about addiction, rather than relying solely on slogans such as "Just say no."

The current generation of young people seeks to grasp the scientific explanations behind various phenomena, including the dangers of drug and alcohol usage. It is crucial to break down this information in a way that resonates with them and instills belief in the potential hazards involved.

In essence, the brains of young individuals are still undergoing development. Studies indicate that heavy drinking and marijuana use among young people may lead to reduced brain volume and impaired cognitive performance, as stated in the briefing.

Since the prefrontal cortex is not yet fully developed during adolescence, young individuals face challenges in making rational decisions and regulating their emotions. These factors can be particularly risky when combined with offers to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, elaborated on weak connections within the prefrontal cortex itself and between the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, a component of the brain’s reward system in her keynote address. She highlighted that even children raised in supportive environments could be susceptible to addiction, as she has extensively studied how drugs affect the brain using brain imaging techniques.

During the Aspen Brain Forum, Cheryl Healton from New York University College of Public Health emphasized that there has been little focus on public education and cultural strategies to prevent drug experimentation in the first place.

Disseminate accurate information about the effects of Marijuana among teenagers and young adults.

The fundamental truth is that today’s marijuana is considerably more potent than what was available in the 1960s. However, with the widespread legalization of marijuana, young individuals understandably question its significance.

To put it in perspective, consider prescription medications. Different drugs have different effects, and in the era of medical marijuana, various strains can affect people in distinct ways. It’s essential to match the right strain with the individual’s needs. For example, a hyperactive person should avoid strains meant to stimulate someone who is feeling depressed, just as a person with heart problems wouldn’t be prescribed a stimulant. Unfortunately, many people, whether obtaining marijuana legally or not, remain unaware of what they are consuming.

Susan R.B. Weiss from the National Institutes of Drug Abuse emphasized that factors like the dosage, strain, and potency of marijuana can lead to vastly different effects on individuals.

In a report by Healthline News, cannabis scientist Andy LaFrate presented his findings from testing marijuana samples from Colorado in a laboratory during a meeting of the American Chemical Society. The marijuana was not only found to be contaminated with fungi but also had THC levels more than two to three times higher than those found three decades ago.

This raises concerns about the impact on young brains. Although some research results are conflicting, making generalizations difficult, there is more consistent data linking cannabis use to psychosis. Several studies suggest that early cannabis use may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, particularly in individuals with genetic risk factors for the disease, as stated in the briefing.

Initiate early education for children on how to manage stress in a healthy manner.

Many young individuals often hear the phrase, “Wait until you feel the stress of the real world,” implying that adulthood brings more significant challenges. However, the stress experienced during adolescence can be equally overwhelming. Not every child grows up in a peaceful home, and when hanging out with friends, the pressure to conform may lead to experimenting with substances like alcohol, marijuana, or even prescription pills taken from a parent’s medicine cabinet at parties. For those already genetically predisposed to addiction, this could be the beginning of a serious substance use problem.

Diana H. Fishbein from the University of Pennsylvania highlighted that emerging articles show promising possibilities for altering the trajectory of children exposed to stress through intervention.

One such intervention is the PATHS Curriculum, which focuses on teaching self-regulation skills. The curriculum targets students in kindergarten through second-grade in Baltimore city schools and has shown positive results. It improves inhibitory control, stress physiology, and emotional regulation, effectively reducing behavioral problems.

The PATHS Curriculum, which stands for Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, imparts essential life skills like self-control, emotional understanding, fostering positive self-esteem, building relationships, and developing interpersonal problem-solving abilities. By introducing such programs early on, we can equip children with effective tools to cope with stress in healthier ways and potentially prevent substance use issues down the line.


Combining all the information, there is insufficient evidence to support the claim that marijuana acts as a “gateway drug,” and even if legalized, there is no indication that a gateway effect would be exacerbated. On the contrary, some evidence suggests that marijuana legalization might deter individuals from transitioning to harder, more hazardous substances.

However, it is essential to recognize that marijuana is not entirely devoid of risks. Potential dangers associated with its use include dependency, excessive consumption leading to accidents and non-fatal overdoses, resulting in mental distress and anxiety, as well as the possibility of triggering psychotic episodes.

Nonetheless, the gateway hypothesis lacks empirical backing. As long as the evidence remains unchanged, discussions about marijuana should center around tangible issues rooted in scientific evidence.

Cannabis Growing main logo

Our deep love of plants and fascination with Cannabis has enabled over 25 years of successful small scale Marijuana cultivation from indoor hydroponics, greenhouses and outdoor growing set-ups.

As Cannabis laws around the world change, *we support the movement toward freedom of choice for responsible, consenting adults who wish to experience the joy and wonder of growing a Cannabis plant.

*All info is for entertainment purposes only.  We do not condone illegal growing of Cannabis.   Consult your state laws accordingly. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *