The Relationship of Marijuana Accessibility & Substance Abuse
A growing concern in the medical and mental health field is the relationship between marijuana use and further illicit drug abuse. Due to the recent state laws passing in Washington and Colorado, there has been a need for a study to address the accessibility factor in relations to the “gateway hypothesis” to marijuana. The fear is that the increase in accessibility of marijuana will result in an increase of substance abuse and dependency. Therefore, this study is intended to address the following research question: Is the increased accessibility of marijuana correlated with the increase use of marijuana and other illicit drug use. Additionally, this proposal will address the gap in the literature, sample and instrument used, and the findings.
The Relationship of Marijuana Accessibility & Substance Abuse A growing concern in the medical and mental health field is the association of marijuana use and further illicit drug abuse as well as whether the increase accessibility of marijuana will result in the increase of substance abuse (Yacoubian, 2007). In the United Sates, researchers and professionals have observed the controversial gateway hypothesis of marijuana for the past 30 years (Hall & Lynskey, 2005). Hall and Lynskey provide the following operational definition for the gateway hypothesis: “Drugs whose use in some unspecified way is a cause of the use of later drugs in the sequence” (p.1). During this time, a variety of studies have been conducted and have discovered empirical support to suggest that marijuana is commonly associated with the use of other illicit drugs (Lessem, 2006). A previous study found that 90% of cocaine users had used marijuana prior to cocaine (Fergusson, Boden, & Horwood, 2006). In another study, researchers discovered that 33% of occasional and 84% of daily marijuana users reported using other illicit drugs (Fergusson, Boden, & Horwood, 2006, p. 2).
Currently, marijuana is a hot topic in the media due to the United States having the worlds largest single market for illicit drugs (Yacoubian, 2007). In addition, research shows that marijuana has been discovered as the most prevalent illicit drug within the American households (Yacoubian). Out of the estimated 19 million people using illicit drugs in American households, the majority of patients admitted to treatment facilities are adolescents and young adults for marijuana abuse (Lessem, 2006). This research significantly affects the mental health field due to the high demand of professionals trained and qualified to work with and treat patients with substance abuse and dependency issues. In terms of policy, during the 2012 election the state of Washington and Colorado passed laws that legalized the recreational use of marijuana (Healy, 2012). To date an estimate of 12 states have decriminalized marijuana and 18 states as well as Washington, DC permit medical marijuana use (Healy). However, under the Federal law there is no such thing as “medical” marijuana (McCarthy, 2004). This is due to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s criteria and the Controlled Substance Act which classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug based on the following three factors: (1) its high potential for abuse, (2) having no significant means for medical use, (3) lack of accepted safety for use of the drug (McCarthy). Additionally, the Department of Justice clearly states that marijuana is illegal under Federal Law despite state policies and acts (McCarthy). Yacoubian (2007) addresses the debate between criminalization versus decriminalization by comparing and contrasting drug regulation and policies within the United States and the Netherlands. Research found that de facto legalization, permitting coffee shops, in the Netherlands led to a significant increase of marijuana use among Dutch youth (Yacoubian). Yacoubian concluded...
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Fergusson, D. M., Boden, J. M., & Horwood, L. (2006). Cannabis use and other illicit drug use: testing the cannabis gateway hypothesis. Addiction, 101(4), 556-569.
Hall, W., & Lynskey, M. (2005). Is cannabis a gateway drug? Testing hypotheses about the relationship between cannabis use and the use of other illicit drugs. Drug & Alcohol Review, 24(1), 39-48.
Healy, J. (2012, November 6). Voters Ease Marijuana Laws in 2 States, but Legal Questions Remain. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www,nytimes.com
Lessem, J. K. (2006). Relationship between Adolescent Marijuana Use and Young Adult Illicit Drug Use. Behavior Genetics, 36(4), 498-506.
McCarthy, K. I. (2004). Conversations about Medical Marijuana between Physicians and Their Patients. Journal Of Legal Medicine, 25(3), 333-349.
Yacoubian, G. S. (2007). Assessing the Relationship between Marijuana Availability and Marijuana Use: A Legal and Sociological Comparison between the United States and the Netherlands. Journal Of Alcohol & Drug Education, 51(4), 17-34.
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