Is Marijuana Really A Gateway Drug?

During his 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan called marijuana the most dangerous drug because it was considered a “gateway” to harder drugs. For decades, this “theory” has been used by the lawmakers to establish harsh policies regarding marijuana’s prohibition, but is it really true?

Does using marijuana or cannabis lead to using other substances, like heroin or cocaine? The answer is not really. There is very little evidence to back up these claims. It’s true that many people use marijuana before they venture out and try other substances, but that alone doesn’t prove that marijuana use caused them to misuse other substances.

Is Marijuana Really A Gateway Drug?

What Does the Science Say?

The idea was popularized in the 1980s, based on a generalized observation, that people who use substances recreationally often start by using marijuana or cannabis. Some people also believe that since “weed” is typically easier to afford and access than other drugs, that’s where people usually start.  

And yet, as of 2021, marijuana has been approved for medical use in 34 states. An increasing number of medical professionals are using it to treat symptoms associated with diseases that cause chronic or acute pain. Use of marijuana to support physical and mental wellbeing is becoming more mainstream.

Statistically, the majority of people who try cannabis don’t go on to use other illicit drugs and generally quit their use of weed by the time they reach middle age. In fact, in cities where marijuana is legally accessible, adults usually report reducing their use of other drugs. In this sense, weed can be called a potential “exit drug” rather than the alleged “gateway”. Most people do not need to seek substance abuse help for marijuana. One study also found that cannabis may help in reducing cravings for opiates and cocaine! 

It’s important to remember that there are several factors that can lead to someone misusing substances, including environmental, genetic, social, and personal factors.

All Things In Moderation

Whether it’s alcohol, smoking, or marijuana, learning moderation is key to ensuring you have a good experience with it. Getting as “high” as you can should never be the goal.

The purpose should be to reach a comfortable sensation that allows you to have an enjoyable social interaction with others without compromising your ability to make healthy choices. If you take marijuana for medical purposes, for example, to reduce joint pain from arthritis, choose products that are infused with CBD oil and have a low THC level.

Reducing marijuana use may seem challenging, but there are steps you can take to make it more manageable without seeking substance abuse help, including:

  • If you are a heavy/regular smoker, consider cutting down the number of times per day you smoke, then reduce the number of days each week. To quit altogether, continue this pattern until you’ve stopped your use.
  • If you are using marijuana recreationally, set the goal to use it only occasionally, just like you’d do with alcohol.
  • Create a budget for buying marijuana; only allow a certain figure to go towards this purpose each month.

However, do seek assistance if you feel you need help in quitting or moderating your use. 

Is Your Marijuana Use Impacting Your Life? Our Choices program may be for you

Consider our Choices program for cannabis. This self-guided program comes with a risk-free, money-back guarantee, and can help you learn valuable strategies to gain more control over your use of cannabis, alcohol, or gambling, 

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