Guess What? Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug

Surprise! Despite the warnings you may have heard, the proof is in: marijuana is not a gateway drug.

The science is in: marijuana is not a gateway drug 

One of the major risks that has often been associated with cannabis use is the idea that it will act as a "gateway drug" - or that smoking pot will make someone more willing and likely to try stronger and more dangerous drugs in the future. This rhetoric is now less popular than in the past, but there are many who insist that marijuana is just a slippery slope that leads to other drugs, and a life of addiction. 

Luckily, as legalization emerges in different areas, and more research is being done on cannabis use and how it impacts peoples lives, it is now clear that marijuana does not act as a gateway drug, and the vast majority of those who try it never go on to use harder drugs like opiates and methamphetamine. In fact, most people who try marijuana don't even go on to smoke marijuana habitually. 

With all of this evidence and research available disproving marijuana as a gateway drug, why does this theory persist? 

Why do people believe that marijuana is a gateway drug?

Marijuana use has often been demonized, particularly in North America. This culture of fear is the root of the gateway drug theory, and what has allowed it to persist, despite growing evidence. There are two reasons that this myth has emerged, and why it persists. 

First, hard-drug users often have or do smoke marijuana. This includes people who recreationally use, or are addicted to substances like cocaine and meth. Some researchers and activists may look at this link and assume that marijuana is the cause, when actually most evidence implies that there is simply a correlation between the two. 

Second, there are many people who are rabid anti-drug activists for many reasons. Despite the fact that cannabis-use has been mostly illegal in the United States for many years, weed has remained available for medical use, and has often been one of the more "accepted" illegal drugs to do in many areas. Those who have come to fear drug use of any kind have fought back against this social acceptance in any way that they can, and have latched on to the gateway theory as a reason why. 

For people who fear what drugs can do to their communities and their children, it is easy to see why there is concern that cannabis may be a gateway drug. That said, the evidence is in, and we simply cannot treat marijuana as a drug that will lead to other addictions. 

Science has shown that marijuana is not a gateway drug .

Science has long-dismissed the idea that marijuana exists uniquely as a gateway drug, but it is an anecdote that has remained popular. One study conducted in the Netherlands concluded that marijuana use is almost entirely unrelated to how the body processes harder drugs, and that the lik between the two was firmly a correlation, not a causation situation.

In fact, some studies have gone beyond disproving the status of weed as a gateway drug, and have even found that marijuana has helped some users quit their opiate dependence. It seems that marijuana is often able to offer a more gentle relief for the emotional symptoms that lead to drug addiction. 

On a larger scale, there has been a rise in the number of adults using marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. With this rise, a drop in use of harder drugs like cocaine has actually been observed, and states with loser legal marijuana laws actually show a much lower drug-oversoe rate. This shows that, even on a large-scale level, the evidence for marijuana as a gateway drug is simply not there. 

Are there any true gateway drugs?

Tobacco, marijuana and alcohol have all been called gateway drugs before, with concerns that use of one substance would lead to increased use of more. With science debunking marijuana as a gateway drug, it is natural to wonder, are there any actual gateway drugs? 


Surprisingly, though it is the most socially accepted, research has found that among these three substances, alcohol actually shows the most potential as a "gateway drug." In studies, it was found that those who use hard drugs tended to try alcohol as their first drug of choice, and tied alcohol to their substance usage. This is very interesting and something that we should all keep in mind when evaluating our health decisions. 

Alcohol is completely legal in the United States, completely socially acceptable, and included in many of our life and social events, despite known danger.

It is important to remember that drugs and substances of any kind will impact all of our bodies differently. Our own physical makeup, emotional state, personal histories, and genetic tendencies will dictate how we respond to different substances, and some people are much more prone to addictive tendencies than others. 

If you are a medical or recreational cannabis user, it can be tiring to defend marijuana to others who find alcohol completely safe and acceptable. Now that you know what the research says about gateway drugs, you can make the right decision for you without worrying about false information. 

Annie Kiely
Annie Kiely

Annie Kiely is a freelance writer, editor and researcher who lives in the 'burbs of Toronto with her pets and her partner. Annie is an advocate for wellness, mental health education, and literacy. She loves animals and gardening (and food). 

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Guess What? Marijuana Is Not a Gateway Drug