gate·way drug


A habit-forming drug that, while not itself addictive, may lead to the use of other addictive drugs

Is there any evidence to suggest that people who try cannabis are more likely to try other drugs?

  • 3
    "people who try cannabis are more likely to try other drugs" (if true) still doesn't mean cannabis is a gateway drug. Unless cannabis is the reason why they are more likely to try other drugs.
    – user288
    May 5, 2011 at 10:21
  • 3
    Denis Leary nailed it when he said: "They say marijuana leads to other drugs. No it doesn't, it leads to f$@king carpentry." :)
    – user2466
    May 17, 2011 at 7:29
  • In one sense, yes, there is. Many people won't use illegal drugs, for whatever reason. Therefore, there is almost certainly going to be a correlation between pot smoking and harder drugs. Therefore, I don't think this question is useful as phrased. May 18, 2011 at 3:46
  • @David Thornley: Note that "illegal" varies with age; under that hypothesis, would there be such a correlation with people who smoke cigarettes/drink alcohol before reaching the legal age in their jurisdiction? (also, while I would principially agree, the strength of such correlation remains rather debatable) May 18, 2011 at 20:45
  • @DavidThornley: Hence the phrase "correlation does not imply causation"
    – naught101
    Feb 9, 2012 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Hardcore drug users use cannabis, but there is no evidence that cannabis is a gateway drug. The first drugs that people are exposed to are usually nicotine and alcohol. Most hardcore drug users also use cannabis, which can make a study on hardcore drug users skewed, because many of them probably use cannabis first due to it's widespread availability.

In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation of other illicit drug use, it is indeed a "gateway" drug. But because underage smoking and alcohol use typically precede marijuana use, marijuana is not the most common, and is rarely the first, "gateway" to illicit drug use. There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. An important caution is that data on drug use progression cannot be assumed to apply to the use of drugs for medical purposes. It does not follow from those data that if marijuana were available by prescription for medical use, the pattern of drug use would remain the same as seen in illicit use... (Joy et al. 1999)

Cannabis can be a gateway drug in one sense. Dealers who deal in cannabis try to sell their other drugs to users too.

Sources: From http://www.drugscience.org/sfu/sfu_gateway.html


Studies related to the gateway theory are listed on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_drug_theory#Studies_not_in_favor_of_the_gateway_theory


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