Gateway theory is the hypothesis that exposure to entry level drugs such as tobacco, alcohol and marijuana reliably predicts a deeper and more severe drug involvement for the user in the future (O’Brien Lecture). For the sake of this discussion, I will refer to marijuana as the gateway drug. Gateway theory is comprised of three propositions: Sequencing, Association, and Causation. Sequencing refers to the idea that there is a relationship between two drugs, where the use of one is regularly initiated before the use of the other. For example, most cocaine users used marijuana before moving on to the harder drug cocaine. Marijuana and cocaine, respectively, were used in sequence. The association proposition suggests that use of one drug increases the probability of use of a second drug. An example would be that marijuana users are 15 times more likely to use heroine than non-users (O’Brien Lecture). Finally, causation implies that there is something inherent in the pharmacology of one drug and its interaction with the brain that actually causes the use and dependence on more dangerous drugs without the intervention of any outside factors or variables (Goode 252-253). Causation infers that using marijuana and getting “high” alters the mind in a way such that the user will move on to heroine in the future.
Of these three propositions, I believe that causation is the easiest to refute. There is no pharmacological basis to suggest that marijuana itself alters the mind in a way that makes a user “wired” for harder drug use (O’Brien Lecture). However, there are certain sociocultural factors as well as personal predispositions that cause certain people to move onto harder drugs. Sociocultural factors include the activities, settings, and friends a user is involved with during the use of the drug. For instance, a marijuana user is likely to have friends who also use marijuana with them. These friends are far more likely than non-users to be interested in harder drugs...
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