Marijuana is Not a Significant Gateway Drug Claims Study That Followed Miami-Dade Students

The belief that Marijuana use will lead to dabbling in harder drugs is overblown claims a new study that followed 1,286 young adults enrolled in the 1990s in Miami-Dade public schools. Researches from the University of New Hampshire who conducted the study are now urging policy makers to reconsider some of their approaches in the war on drugs.

The study published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior indicates that there is not a strong correlation between marijuana use as a teen and harder drug use later in life.

"While marijuana use may serve as a gateway to other illicit drug use in adolescence, our results indicate that the effect may be short-lived," the study finds. "Interestingly, age emerges as a protective status above and beyond the other life statuses and conditions considered here."

Researchers argue that factors such as employment in young adulthood, education and severe stress are far more predictive of harder drug use.

"Employment in young adulthood can protect people by closing the marijuana gateway, so over-criminalizing youth marijuana use might create more serious problems if it interferes with later employment opportunities," says the studies co-author Karen Van Gundy according to the CBC.

Students who didn't finish high school or attend college were also more likely to use hard drugs.

The Miami-Dade youth followed by the study were 26 percent African-American, 44 percent Hispanic, and 30 percent non-Hispanic white.

The study found that race and ethnicity are the strongest indicators related to harder drug use.

Non-Hispanic whites were much more likely to use harder drugs, followed by Hispanics, while African-Americans were least likely to use harder drugs.

[CBC: Marijuana gateway risk overblown: study]
[Science Blog: Risk of marijuana's 'gateway effect' overblown, new UNH research shows ]

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Kyle Munzenrieder