Turns out the “Reefer Madness” crowd may have had it right when they referred to marijuana as a “gateway drug” that puts users on a death spiral towards other addictions.
Adult marijuana use tied to addiction to other drugs or alcohol
A new study has revealed that adults who smoke pot are more likely that non-smokers to develop an addiction to other drugs. While marijuana use was cleared in its role in developing mood and anxiety orders, the study clearly showed that adults who smoke have a greater risk of picking up the bottle, starting smoking or, heaven forbid, develop an opiate addiction like one of their neighbors.
The findings are a result of a sampling of nearly 35,000 adults interviewed three years apart for the U.S. National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Of those roughly 35,000 people interviewed about 1,300 of them smoked pot. Of that 1,300, about two-thirds of smokers had troubles with drug or alcohol use in the three years between interviews. Of those that hadn’t smoked in the last year, only 20% had trouble with the abuse of other substances.
“This new finding raises the possibility that the recent rise in marijuana use may be contributing to the coincident rise in serious harms related to narcotics and other drugs of abuse,” said lead researcher Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City
“Those who used marijuana once or more a month had the highest rates of substance use disorders at follow-up (70.5 percent),” Olfson said.
Olfson, however, was quick to point out that his research is by no means proof that marijuana had anything to do with these problems but felt that his research could be valuable to states that are considering rethinking marijuana legislation after Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have largely had success with legalization.
“In the ongoing national debate concerning whether to legalize recreational marijuana, the public and legislators should take into consideration the potential for marijuana use to increase the risk of developing alcohol abuse and other serious drug problems,” Olfson said.
Reaction to the study
Following the three-year follow-up interview where the study collects its data, smokers were six times as likely to develop an addiction to another drug, three times as likely to develop an alcohol problem and roughly 10 times more likely to question whether their marijuana used is a problem. Additionally, pot smokers were about twice as likely to develop an addiction to nicotine.
The study and the team’s findings were published Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry with a number of dissenters happily responding in the press to the published findings.
“I am quite dubious of these findings,” said Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. It should be noted that Earleywine is on the advisory board for the National Organization (for the) Reform (of) Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“I am unable to see this association after 40 years of clinical experience,” Earleywine said of the “gateway” theory that this study seems to support.
An additional addictions touted in this study “says more about the person than about marijuana,” he said.
“There is very little to be concerned about with marijuana. There is more to be concerned about with alcohol or any of the other psychoactive drugs that the drug industry prescribes,” Earleywine said.