Marijuana, the Gateway Drug? Study Suggests Stress And Employment Status Matter More

It’s commonly thought that marijuana is a “gateway drug” – that if a teen starts smoking marijuana, they will be more likely to use other illicit drugs.  A new study suggests this may not be so, and other factors are more responsible for the transition to other illegal drugs.

The study was conducted by sociologists from the University of New Hampshire on a little over 1200 teens from the Miami-Dade public school system.  They found that teens who smoked pot and later moved onto other illegal drugs did so less from a “gateway effect” and more because of  “life factors such as employment status and stress” (fromPhysOrg.Com).

Heroin, which can be home drug tested for

Another look at the drug in the image above: Heroin

The study suggests that unemployment, stress, and family situations are greater predictors of whether someone will smoke marijuana AND use other illegal drugs.  These factors are not much of a surprise, really, if you think of drug use as a form of escapism.

Education seems to play a role too.  The lack thereof may not cause the problem, but drug use and an incomplete education occur together.  Race was a predictor as well – non-Hispanic whites were the most likely to move onto other drugs, while Hispanics and then African-Americans were the next most likely groups to do so.

All these factors aside, the study does not entirely count out marijuana’s “gateway” effect – they note that the effect may exist during the teenage years, and fade away by the age of 21.  Perhaps not totally reassuring to parents of teens.

There are other studies (such as this one) that suggest marijuana is a gateway drug, chemically, to other drugs, such as heroin.  Science is always a lively back and forth.  And it is important to highlight two of the major factors here, unemployment and stress.

Americans certainly aren’t strangers to unemployment these days.  If your teen seems stressed and/or unemployed, as a parent be sure to be sensitive to this.  If you are worried about substance abuse, you can always use a home drug test to check and test for several drugs at once.  As the article points out, drugs can be a sort of self-perpetuating problem – if you are busted for illegal use, the stress factors that contribute to drug use increase, getting a job becomes harder, etc.  And there is no stress that’s quite as stressful as drug addiction.

Image of marijuana and heroin above by Home Health Testing.

One single comment

  1. Although unemployment, stress, and family situations are responsible for a teen to use marijuana, education plays a major role to protect them from use of these illegal drugs. Parent have the greatest responsibility to get connected with their teenagers, educate them and seek for proper help if needed.