Letter to the editor: Debunking ‘gateway drug’ argument
Letter-writer Susan Jones worries that legalizing marijuana could potentially lead to an increased usage of cocaine, crack or heroin (“Legalized pot a gateway drug,” Feb. 16, TribLIVE).
The “gateway drug” argument is an example of assuming that correlation is evidence of causation. Studies do show that the majority of people abusing the more dangerous drugs begin their drug-taking experience with marijuana. Studies also show that almost all of those same drug abusers also used alcohol and tobacco before they used harder drugs.
Yet the majority of people who have used marijuana, alcohol or tobacco never consume any cocaine, crack or heroin at all. If marijuana use was the genuine cause of an eventual addiction to cocaine or opioids, then the number of people addicted to those drugs would be more than double the number it is today.
While marijuana use cannot offer real physical relief to those who are already suffering from the addictive demands of opioids, legalized marijuana consumption could reduce the demand for cocaine, crack and heroin in the future. With legal (and potentially more potent) cannabis available, those looking to stimulate pleasure-receptors in the brain would be less likely to turn to harder drugs.
Andrew N. Mewbourn