Is marijuana really a gateway drug?
While public approval of marijuana use continues to grow, more and more teenagers are dabbling in the drug - but does experimentation with pot lead to the use of more "hard" drugs?
That's the question New York University researchers attempted to answer in a recent study, which explored how the use of one drug affects a person's attitudes about using other drugs.
High school seniors surveyed
Data for the study was obtained from 29,054 high school seniors who took part in the Monitoring the Future annual cross-sectional survey of 130 private schools in 48 states.
While alcohol use appeared to have no impact on people's attitudes about drugs, youths who smoked cigarettes or used more than one "hard" drug were less critical of other drug use. Those who used marijuana also tended to be less judgmental of using more "socially acceptable" drugs like LSD, amphetamine and ecstasy. These same people did not approve of drugs like cocaine, heroin or crack, however.
Gender and education
The study also found that female students disapproved more of using harder drugs, and they were less likely than their male counterparts to use drugs at all. Religious beliefs boosted attitudes against drug use, too.
Students who came from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and had highly educated parents were less disapproving of "less dangerous" drugs, and this trend was also seen among students who lived in urban areas.
Findings also showed that Black students were less disapproving of drugs like powder cocaine, crack and ecstasy.
Researchers concluded that public health and policy experts should be aware that lenient policies around marijuana might contribute to the growing prevalence of other drug use.
"Although it may be difficult to prevent an adolescent or a young adult from using alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, we need to prevent individuals from becoming users of multiple drugs," said Joseph Palamar, lead study author.
More information about the study can be found in the journal Prevention Science..
Source: Springer Science+Business Media