For many years, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug for other, more serious drugs. It is often taught in schools that this is the case and that weed should be avoided at all costs as a result.
It is said that, once people get a taste for the nice feeling that marijuana consumption provides, they will then want to experience other drugs so they can find out what these other effects may be. Believers of this theory say that, if marijuana is legalized for recreational use, more and more people are eventually going to be pushed towards consuming harder types of drugs.
However, to date there is little to no evidence that supports the theory that marijuana is a gateway drug. It may even be the case according to some studies that the legalization of cannabis may lead to a fall in the use of harder drugs.
Current lack of evidence for cannabis being a gateway drug
While there is some level of correlation between the use of marijuana and harder drugs, the same can be said for those consuming the likes of tobacco and alcohol. This does not necessarily mean that there is a causal link between these things and hard drug consumption – it may simply be that the reasons why people consume alcohol and marijuana are the same reasons which lead them to trying out harder drugs.
This could be due to their social environment, depression, boredom, etc., which leads them towards the harder alternatives. This could actually mean that there is no causal relationship at all, but this correlation is simply exposing the underlying reasons why people go down this path. Of course, the reason that people using hard drugs start off with the likes of tobacco and alcohol is because they is readily available and legal, and for the most part they are going to be cheaper than a lot of the harder drugs.
There have been numerous studies conducted throughout the years which investigate the link between these underlying factors and the use of hard drugs, rather than simply pinning the blame on marijuana for the transition towards harder drugs. There has not been any convincing evidence that supports the marijuana gateway drug hypothesis, just some correlation that is weak by most accounts.
The general feeling now is that people consuming hard drugs are going to start out with the options that are most accessible to them, which are the likes of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. Of course, this does not definitively mean that marijuana is not a gateway drug, but there is not enough evidence to date to concretely support this theory.
Could legalization of marijuana lead to the opposite effect?
There is starting to be some research emerging which may suggest that marijuana consumption could in fact be an anti-gateway drug. Currently, the likes of the United States are in the midst of a crisis with opioids.
Often, this addiction starts out when people are given strong opioid painkillers, and they end up then moving onto other types of opioids – usually because they are significantly cheaper – such as fentanyl and heroin. There are new studies showcasing that, in areas where medical marijuana has been legalized, the amount of opioid deaths has reduced.
Researchers believe that this is because these people can use marijuana as a treatment option, rather than having to use the likes of opioid painkillers. There is a lot less chance that they are going to get addicted or have an overdose if they are consuming cannabis instead of the opioids, which can be deadly.
There are also those people who will swap out alcohol consumption for the consumption of marijuana thanks to its legalization. This could be a great benefit for society as a whole because alcohol is a driver for many serious crimes and fatal accidents.
On the other hand, marijuana is never really the cause of violent crimes, and it is not as likely to be the cause of fatal accidents as excessive alcohol consumption. While studies and research are still ongoing, there are some early indications that marijuana may in fact be an anti-gateway drug and could improve the balance of society in a given community.
Is marijuana addiction a real thing?
While marijuana has never killed someone by consuming too much of it, despite a lot of people believing otherwise, it can be addictive and lead to dependency. Just like with most things, if you consume marijuana more than a moderate amount, you may develop a dependency issue.
While it can provide a lot of benefits, there are also drawbacks that are associated with excessive consumption. The results of being dependent on marijuana are of course not going to be as severe as if you were addicted to harder drugs. However, it may cause serious strains on your relationships, work, or school performance.
The reasons for dependence can vary, such as being due to relationship problems, guilt, stress, financial troubles, self-esteem issues and social circumstances. Certain people are going to be more likely to develop a dependence on the use of cannabis, particularly those suffering from different mental health conditions.
All kinds of different treatment options will have been used by these people, but often they find the best relief through the consumption of marijuana. They may then rely on this as a crutch to ease the symptoms associated with their condition, rather than trying to deal with the root causes.
Certain side effects can be more pronounced when a person has existing mental health issues. It can be difficult to figure out whether or not a person is struggling with marijuana dependency, but it is usually noticeable when they have some sort of negative impacts on their relationships, work or school life, finances, or social life.
There are certainly a lot worse drugs you could be addicted to which have serious consequences, but of course any addiction is never ideal.