The ‘Gateway Drug’ Is Alcohol, Not Marijuana


Researchers at the University of Florida have found that the theory of a “gateway drug” is not associated with marijuana – results from the Guttman scale indicated that alcohol represented the gateway drug, leading to the use of tobacco, marijuana, and other illicit substances. Furthermore, students who used alcohol “exhibited a significantly greater likelihood of using both licit and illicit drugs”.

In an interview with Raw Story, co-author Adam E. Barry said that his studies were intended to correct some of the propaganda that has infected American culture since the “Reefer Madness” era.

Some of these earlier iterations needed to be fleshed out, that’s why we wanted to study this. The latest form of the gateway theory is that it begins with [cannabis] and moves on finally to what laypeople often call ‘harder drugs’. As you can see from the findings of our study, it confirmed this gateway hypothesis, but it follows progression from licit substances, specifically alcohol, and moves on to illicit substances,” Barry said. These findings walk hand-in-hand with a 2012 study from Yale that found that alcohol and cigarettes were much more likely than marijuana to precede opiate abuse.

Researchers used a nationally representative sample of high school seniors, evaluating data collected through the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey, which tracks drug use trends among youth in the US. Barry’s study focused on data collected from 14,577 high school seniors from 120 public and private schools in the United States.

By comparing substance abuse rates between drinkers and non-drinkers, the researchers found that seniors in high school who had consumed alcohol at least once in their lives “were 13 times more likely to use cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine”.

In the sample of students, alcohol also represented the most commonly used substance, with 72.2 percent of students reporting alcohol consumption at some point in their lifetime. Comparatively, 45 percent of students reported using tobacco, and 43.3 percent cited marijuana use.

“The findings from this investigation support that alcohol should receive primary attention in school-based substance abuse prevention programming, as the use of other substances could be impacted by delaying or preventing alcohol use. Therefore, it seems prudent for school and public health officials to focus prevention efforts, policies, and monies, on addressing adolescent alcohol use,” the study concluded.

Scientists had earlier discovered that cannabis, a therapeutic healing herb, may actually reduce brain damage caused by alcohol. A 2013 study from the University of Kentucky and the University of Maryland concluded that a chemical in marijuana called cannabidiol could be used to treat alcohol-induced neuro-degeneration.

Results of a very recent study has led to the conclusion that ‘illegal’ marijuana is far and away the safest ‘legal’ drug. Based on the findings, the researchers agreed that weed is 114 times less deadly than alcohol.

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  1. This is stupid. The only “gateway” is in the person and their choices. Stop making up lies to demonize what is being abused and NOT who is being abusive!

    • Beverly obviously hasn’t got the slightest clue about addiction and what it leads to. Everyones body reacts different to mood altering substances. A lot of people have an Allergic reaction to alcohol which ignites addiction & it is easier said than done to stop the abuse. 99.9% of people who say either “mind over matter” or it’s the person that “chooses to abuse” are usually people in denial of the reality & fatality of alcohol as a whole. Also those that require an outside substance to “have fun” or be “more social” already are addicted or under denial because their body & mind can NOT accept any option that requires stopping the use of the “mood enhancer” been administered by ones own hand. Acceptance is the First step. I will pray & hope that your family never goes through addiction & if some one already is going through it I will pray that your thinking changes regarding addiction & substance abuse or you are doomed to see that close person to you die of this disease in front of your eyes since you have a wrong perception of how to deal with addiction. Remember, “We are not bad people trying to be Good!We are sick people trying to get well!!”

      • Sergio I’m not sure you interpreted her remark the same as I did. You’re saying what she did, just in a whole lot more words. She didn’t say there weren’t addicts, what I took it to mean was that if you don’t ever try it in the first place, you won’t will have no problems with it. Once I took that first drink was when I was in trouble. I have a addictive personality, I can become addicted to sunflower seeds, when I can’t use my first addiction of smoking. But sunflower use didn’t lead to my smoking and smoking didn’t lead to my addiction to sunflower seeds. I gave up drugs and alcohol after years of abuse, but I am still an addict, just choose not to use. I’ve accepted that I am powerless.

      • This isn’t about addiction though- this is about gateway drugs. Addiction to a substance increases usage of that substance. It’s a completely separate issue than the ‘gateway drug’ issue, and completely irrelevant and off-topic.

        That said: Contrary to popular belief (myths like ‘one hit gets you hooked’), next to nobody gets physically addicted to a substance via ‘reasonable use.’ It’s almost always a case of serious abuse of the substance leading to addiction, not vice versa. Exceptions to this are almost always referring to psychological addiction, which is so utterly distinct in mechanism and effect from physical addiction that they really shouldn’t even share the same term- psychological addiction has far more to do with the person using the substance than the specifics of the substance itself.

      • “A lot of people have an Allergic reaction to alcohol which ignites addiction & it is easier said than done to stop the abuse.” Allergies have nothing to do with addiction or alcoholism. It’s a myth that an allergy to alcohol leads to addiction, and this “theory” doesn’t even make any sense. An allergy is an immune response to a foreign object/substance in your body, your body is trying to get RID of the foreign substance. An allergy would never make someone ingest MORE of the substance that they are allergic to, that goes completely against medicine and science. The allergy alcoholism explanation was probably used as a rather poor analogy to explain to laymen how people get addicted to alcohol.

    • I agree completely Bev. If I had made the choice to never use, I would not have abused the drugs I did. I was smoking before I was drinking. I think this whole article is hogwash. I have an addictive personality, doesn’t matter what I choose, it becomes addictive, even sunflower seeds. I have been off drugs and alcohol, for 11 years now, after 30 years of abusing them. Sergio I’m not sure you interpreted her remark the same as I did. You’re saying what she did, just in a whole lot more words. She didn’t say there weren’t addicts, what I took it to mean was that if you don’t ever try it in the first place, you won’t will have no problems with it. Once I took that first drink was when I was in trouble.

      • You are saying that you already knew when you took your first drink that you were very aware that your body was going to have an allergic reaction to the alcohol, I find that very hard to believe. If the problem was “choice” and all alcoholics would know ahead of time that their body would react a certain way that would be harmful to them, there would be a whole lot less alcoholics. When you first take your first drink you do NOT know how your body will react since all you see is millions of people that are able to have a few drinks socially and go on about their lives until the next time the social event provides liquor. We are NOT equipped that way, taking that first drink opens Pandora’s box within us alcoholics, we never had a choice. We didn’t take that first drink and say: I know this drink is going to create an allergic reaction that will turn me into an alcoholic/addict but I am still gonna take my chances & drink it! Also I never said that she insinuated we weren’t addicts, I said & I quote ” she hasn’t got the slightest clue about addiction and what it leads to. Everyones body reacts different to mood altering substances.” I am also a recovering alcoholic/addict clean 4 years after 23 years in the streets of Chicago. Had I known as you insinuate that my body would have that reaction YES I would have made a wiser choice, unfortunately NOBODY knows what will happen after that first drink, so your theory does not make any sense to me I am sorry. The article is about Alcohol been the GATEWAY drug, I agree 100%, from what I understood from Bev (no disrespect to her) was that there is no gateway drug just “WRONG CHOICES”, never knew we had a choice if we wanted to be addicts or not or that any addict has ever been aware of the reaction their body would have after the first drink.

        • There is no allergic reaction to alcohol that makes people addicted to alcohol. An allergy is an immune response to a foreign substance in your body, and your body tries to get rid of the foreign substance. An addiction is pretty much the opposite: without ingesting that substance you are addicted to, you start experiencing negative side effects. There’s no evidence to suggest that having an allergy to something will make you addicted to it, that’s likely entirely an AA myth used to unscientifically and inaccurately explain alcoholism to laymen.

  2. I agree completely anyone I know agrees too I’m 19 from UK and anyone who goes out for a drink will as the saying goes get on it and jump on the band wagon of getting twisted with cocaine, magic, ket, pills, mxe, there all party drugs it’s ridiculous

    • Most people I know who smoke got started while drinking, so… maybe not. That said, my anecdotal experience doesn’t necessarily reflect society overall, but finding hard data on this particular aspect is quite difficult.

  3. I drink occasionally and have never Smoked anything. I never used cocaine either. I don’t have an addictive personality.

    Beer regular brand, helps flush out the kidneys. My family has kidney disease, my mother’s doctor recommended her to drink beer to help her kidneys. It did as well.

    I honestly think you’re research is trying to find ways to put alcohol down- to boost marijuana voters ect.

    I think with me not having addictive personality my opinion.
    Is you should search to help find a way to Help people not be addictivly dependence.

  4. The alcohol should be removed from stores as they did with tobacco. There are way too many bars to go to why do we have to look at it in just about every store you go to, especially pharmacies,grocery stores and gas stations this is some of the places but they are in a lot more places too. I have never went out bought tobacco killed anybody .Can you say the same about alcohol you hear or see or are involved in this shit with drunk driving people get hurt as well as others property.

  5. You are all right for differing reasons. It depends on your perspective and what you have experienced. I’m a recovering heroin and sex addict. I think and believe everything depends on everything else. Each individual is different. There’s reasons we are attracted or not attracted to certain things. And at varying points of our lives. I think someone mentioned that it’s not we Who is right or wrong, bottom line is it is preventable and the way we have been viewing it has not lead to commendable treatment results. <3 so we have more to learn and understand about human behavior. Period.

  6. I have always objected to the idea of a ‘gateway’ substance. There are those prone to addiction and they tend to be the most vulnerable in our society, those who have suffered abuse or inujustice, or have not had the necessary support network to teach them proper coping strategies for their anxieties and depression. 90% of addicts fall into this category, and they deserve support and understanding, their addiction is an emotional crutch and if we turn our backs on them they have all the more reason to turn back to that crutch again and again.
    As for youth addiction amongst those who don’t seem to fall into this category, the problem is not the substance it’s the source. It’s such a pointless thing to tell your teens that they shouldn’t smoke weed and warn them of the ‘dangers’ of using ths ‘drug’, we give our children smartphones now and it takes all of 10 seconds and the click of a button to find overwhelming evidence that contradicts the warning of parents and actually show that weed does more good than harm, and so teens are going to go ahead and decide that it’s prefectly safe for them to try it.

    They want to have an innocent little joint with their friends in the park, get the giggles and then the munchies, and it’s all fun and games until they have to go to a drug dealer to make that possible.
    And therein lies the real problem, a drug dealer doesn’t see your innocent little darling, wonderful potential and a future brimming with possibilities, he sees a vilnerable person who is easy to manipulate, and the chance to increase his profit by securing regular future income, and he will push harder, dangerous and addictive substances onto kids to make extra money and worse.
    I went to a drug dealer to buy £5 worth of weed when I was 15 years old, and I left with a free sample of cocaine and amphetamines. I didn’t ask for them, I didn’t want them but I was intimidated into accepting them. I chose to dispose of them, but I had friends who sat on them for a while and were too tempted to try them once they were in their possession (because teenagers are not always mature enough to make the right decision when something is forced into their path so easily!) Once they tried those substances and realised that they were still alive the next day and nothing bad had happened, it was much easier for them to accept those free samples the next time they went to buy weed.
    I had one friend in particular who received so many free samples that by the time she was 16 she was addicted, and when she went to actually buy more than a free sample amount, she was made to pay for it with her body.
    I knew boys that were forced to commit crimes to pay for their addiction, an addiction that they were manipulated into by adults with no scruples.

    Kids are not daft enough to think that the harder substances are safe enough to play with, it takes a hell of a lot of courage for a teenager to actually try those substances, I remember distinctly how scared me and many of my friends were to mess around with the chemical stuff, but all that becomes a lot easier when the stuff is thrust on you just because you wanted to buy a little harmless weed.
    The drug dealer is the gateway, not the marijuana, and if you want to protect children then it needs to be regulated, so that they can use their fake ID or older cousin to purchase it instead of being made easy prey to drug dealers.

    • Don’t blame it on the dealers. You were 15? And nobody ever thought you not to take candy from strangers? Really?

      I won’t deny that there are dealers who try to abuse their position, but during my years of experimentation with various drugs, and buying from many different dealers, I’ve never seen anything like it. I think it may also depend on the area or whatever country you live in, but it’s kind of obvious – the harder you crack down on drugs users and those who sell them the more criminal behavior you can expect. So my guess is that either you live in a country where a hard drug war being is fought or you just had bad luck. But it’s far from reasonable to blame all bar owners for alcohol addiction because some bar owner sold or gave alcohol to a kid once. People will in my experience be much more likely to be peer pressured into taking a drug than to be intimidated by a dealer to take a drug. And the only drug I got (only lightly) pressured into was nicotine. It was absolutely my own choice to smoke though, and would it have been a cigarette salesman instead of a friend offering me a cigarette I would have politely told him to shove it up his arse.

      Most of the dealers I met were just normal people looking for an extra buck, like students for example who were trying to pay for their tuition, or shamans and psychonauts who turned their hobby into a profession. The bad rep these people would get from selling (or even worse giving) drugs to a kid wouldn’t keep them in business for very long. Not only that but cocaine is a pretty expensive drug to just give away in the hope that someone might actually become addicted (which they may just not, because it’s hardly more addictive than alcohol and most people who drink do not become addicted to alcohol, unless it’s crack) and that they are going to buy that drug from you (especially if you intimidate people into taking stuff, that’s going to make you popular with the customers and make them come back for sure) and not someone else.

      The only ones who stay in business selling dangerous drugs to kids are psychiatrists and big pharma, who sell amphetamine (adderall), opiates and other drugs under the guise of a medicine. And people buy into it because they actually believe they can trust their docs and that it will make them better, which is of course never the case, or at least not in the long run. But still, even though this is a much dirtier business than what I’ve ever saw on the streets I wouldn’t want to do away with psychiatry. I do blame psychiatrists who give drugs to kids though, because they should know better, and some if not most of them do probably do, but not knowing is just as inexcusable. But if drugs keep people from jumping off a bridge than this is still the more healthy option. But this is of course only true for well reasoning adults. To give or sell drugs to young kids is insane.

      It makes a lot of sense that alcohol is a gateway drug. It’s not even debatable but a fact that alcohol takes away inhibitions, and makes people do things they wouldn’t do when sober, and opens people up to things they wouldn’t usually be open to. People generally become much more lax and are more willing to let their walls down through alcohol consumption.

      I agree that (all drugs, not just weed) should be legalized and regulated though.

  7. If you really need to tag something as being a gateway drug (which is total f’ing nonsense) then lets talk about SUGAR!

  8. IMHO – Marijuana and alcohol are both gateways for different reasons:
    – Alcohol – Is mainly accepted as not being an addiction drug, and so people start with it until completed hooked up and then needs something more…
    – Marijuana – Is presented at the same level of danger of cocaine or heroin, so once someone tries it, he/she believes that heroin/cocaine are equal and starts using it without seeing what they are doing.

  9. The biggest problem is alcohol is out there, is available and still around after all this time. I believe alcohol has done more damage than good to society for countless years. Drugs are equally horrible and neither should be available for purchase, cosumption or use period. These life damaging items have destroyed lives and they continue to do such. It’s a never ending vicious cycle of money, money, money. Very disappointing.


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