Thursday, September 02, 2010
CBC News - Health - Marijuana gateway risk overblown: study
Long-held fears that the use of marijuana will lead to harder drugs are overblown, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire.
A young woman smokes a joint outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. New research suggests use of marijuana as a teen is not a major factor in using hard drugs later in life. (Jonathan Hayward)The research, in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found that other factors, such as whether or not a person has a job, or is facing severe stress, are far more predictive of future hard drug use than whether they smoked pot as a teenager.
"Employment in young adulthood can protect people by closing the marijuana gateway, so over-criminalizing youth marijuana use might create more serious problems if it interferes with later employment opportunities," said co-author Karen Van Gundy.
The strongest factor influencing the use of illicit drugs is an individual's race or ethnicity, according to the study. Non-Hispanic whites are most likely to use harder drugs such as heroin or cocaine, followed by Hispanics and then by African Americans.
'We urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the drug problems'—Karen Van Gundy, Cesar Rebellon, University of New Hampshire
Young adults who didn't complete high school or go to college were most likely to have used marijuana as teens and other illicit drugs in early adulthood. Those who were unemployed after high school were also more likely to use other drugs.
"In light of these findings, we urge U.S. drug control policymakers to consider stress and life-course approaches in their pursuit of solutions to the drug problems," write the study's authors, Van Gundy and Cesar Rebellon, both associate professors of sociology at UNH.