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The Myth of Gateway Drugs

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ — but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12

Even those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the drug scene know the term “gateway drug.” Frequently used to describe marijuana, a gateway drug is seen as a portal into harder drugs, ensnaring casual users and dragging them deep into the bowels of addiction. As such, marijuana use, despite its shifting legal state in the U.S., is often seen as the first rung on the ladder to substance abuse.

While there’s no such thing as safe, healthy drug use, or drug use that is acceptable in God’s eyes, the gateway drug association isn’t as true as it sounds. In fact, there is no research that supports marijuana’s ties to harder drug use, creating a dynamic myth that has perpetuated for over 30 years. In reality, marijuana is no more a gateway drug than any other potentially addictive substance.


Marijuana Use in the United States

Marijuana may not be a gateway drug, but it is among the most commonly used substances in the United States. In the past month, an estimated 22.2 million people have used marijuana at least once, with use more common in men than in women. Worldwide, approximately 158 million people use marijuana – nearly 4% of the global population.

Unlike harder drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamines, that are most commonly used by adults, marijuana retains a stronghold among teen drug users, with 9.4% of 8th graders, 23.9% of 10th graders, and 35.6% of 12th graders using marijuana at least once in the past year. In addition, 46% of those aged 26 or older have tried marijuana at some point in life.

While these figures do indicate a prevalence, they pale in comparison to two legal substances that see excessive use in the United States: alcohol and nicotine. Over 84% of Americans drink at least once, and 26.9% have some sort alcohol use disorder. In addition, approximately 15% of Americans are current cigarette smokers, although this figure an all-time low.


The Origins of the “Gateway Drug”

The term “gateway drug” is not exactly new. In fact, its origins date back to 1984, during the renewed war on drugs that occurred during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The phrase was coined by Dr. Robert L. DuPont Jr. in his book Getting Tough on Gateway Drugs: A Guide for the Family. In his literature, he notes that individuals who do not use marijuana are unlikely to experiment with harder drugs, although he stopped short of making the claim that marijuana itself increases the likelihood of further drug use.

DuPont’s writings did posit that youths who do not use alcohol or tobacco likely will not make the leap to illegal substances, like marijuana. However, this gap in legality appears to be behind the identification of marijuana as a gateway drug instead of its more common legal counterparts. Despite the lack of clinical evidence supporting these findings, the concept of a gateway drug still perpetuates to this day and is often used to argue for continued legal penalties for those who use, possess, or distribute marijuana.


The Myth of the Gateway Drug

The myth of the gateway drug exists largely due to a common logical fallacy. It is known within the scientific community that correlation – hard drug users who also use marijuana, in this case – does not necessarily equal causation, but to the layperson, these kinds of connections, while tenuous, are substantial enough to jump to conclusions.

It is indeed true that those who use marijuana are more likely to transition into harder drugs than those who do not use marijuana, but this is not likely due to marijuana itself. Instead, it is more directly tied to the personalities of those who choose to do drugs in the first place. Those who use drugs – any drugs – are far more likely to continue experimenting than those who do not use any substances, thus eliminating marijuana specifically as the linking factor. The propensity for abuse is not linked to any one drug, but rather an overall interest in mind-altering opportunities.

Furthermore, research actually shows that marijuana could be more accurately described as a terminus drug rather than a gateway drug, as a vast majority of users stop at marijuana and do not go on to try any other illicit drugs. There is also no evidence that the high from marijuana begins to weaken or leads to a desire for harder drugs and more intense sensations. Instead, marijuana is often used in a similar way to alcohol – as a recreational way to unwind. Many users do not need marijuana to make it through a day, and are content using every few days or weeks as opposed to around the clock.

Additionally, marijuana is significantly less addictive than many other substances. Unlike opiates or cocaine, marijuana has no direct or permanent effects on the brain; in fact, much of marijuana addiction is psychological in nature as opposed to physical. Research suggests that approximately 30% of those who use marijuana regularly have some degree of use disorder. While still significant, the incidence of addiction is significantly lower than other drugs, especially those like heroin with a nearly 100% incidence rate.


Marijuana Use and God’s Word

In general, marijuana is all-natural, less addictive than many of its peers, and legal in several states. So, is use okay?

The answer, of course, is no. For those who adhere to the word of the Lord, no drug is acceptable. As Galatians 5:21 states, “Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In order to adhere to the teachings of Christ, sobriety is important. Your body is a vessel of God, and that means avoiding the temptations that can lead to inappropriate thoughts and actions. As 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a safe drug. All addictive substances have the power to be abused, and even “safer” substances can lead to addiction. In order to live a life inspired by God and prevent the chance of abuse, abstinence is the only way forward.


Seek Help Today

If you are struggling with drug addiction in any form, Road to Freedom is here to help. As a comprehensive Christian recovery resource, our experienced professionals can assist you in rediscovering sobriety through both medical science and the teachings of the Lord. Please contact us today to learn more (844)402-3605.

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