This Is Why the ‘Gateway Theory’ Has Been Debunked Once Again

Pixabay / DariuszSankowski / CC0 Creative Commons

The “gateway theory,” the theory that cannabis use leads to the use of harder drugs, has been debunked once again by academia.

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz released “The Marijuana Gateway Fallacy,” a discussion brief that uses social science evidence to prove that the “gateway theory” is a myth.

“Maintaining this myth not only wastes resources but actually harms numerous individuals, primarily members of minority groups, who are being criminalized,” said Eve Waltermaurer, an epidemiologist on the mult-disciplinary team that authored the discussion brief, in a press release. “Energy which could be better applied toward reducing the truly harmful opioid epidemic, is instead spent on a fool’s errand.”

Waltermaurer’s team was able to come to this conclusion because it found that previous research supporting the gateway theory confused correlation with causation, hard drug users don’t follow the gateway hypothesis pattern, self-reported drug-use data can be inaccurate and certain political agendas have benefitted from promoting the non-evidence-based gateway theory.

The Benjamin Center’s discussion brief joins several other reports that have debunked the gateway theory, including studies published in the American Journal of Public Health and the International Journal of Drug Policy.

While the federal government hasn’t rescheduled or descheduled cannabis, a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration in August 2016 took its own small step in acknowledging that there’s no scientific evidence to support the gateway theory.

“Overall, research does not support a direct causal relationship between regular marijuana use and other illicit drug use,” the report stated. ” … the gateway hypothesis only addresses the order of drug use initiation, the gateway hypothesis does not specify any mechanistic connections between drug ‘stages’ following exposure to marijuana and does not extend to the risks for addiction.”

Caroline Cahill is the Managing Editor of MJINews. She earned her BA in Communications from College of Charleston and her MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has previously worked in higher education, development and radio. You can follow her on Twitter @CtheresaC.

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