With marijuana legalization now sweeping the country, many people are left wondering what impact it will have on drug abuse and addiction. One of the most common concerns is whether marijuana is a gateway drug, meaning that it paves the way to more dangerous substances.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States. Still, it is not considered a gateway drug, according to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
However, people who begin using cannabis at an early age or use cannabis with other drugs may be more likely to use other illegal drugs. The National Institute for Drug Abuse has several theories.
First, cannabis can change the reward system in young brains. Despite conflicting results from studies done on this topic, it’s probably best for teenagers to avoid cannabis because of the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain. This same effect can be seen in other drugs as well.
Second, many people who use cannabis are around others who use and sell other drugs. They may find themselves with increased opportunities to try them.
Third, some people choose cannabis first because it is easier to get than other drugs, just like cigarettes and alcohol. The issue of whether marijuana is a “gateway drug” has been studied for years. In the past, many studies have found that those who use cannabis are more likely than others to use other drugs, but correlation does not necessarily mean causation.