Add a University of New Hampshire study to the host of others that have found that marijuana is not a gateway drug, and that harder drug use depends more on social or environmental factors than on whether a person smokes weed.
“There seems to be this idea that we can prevent later drug problems by making sure kids never smoke pot,” lead researcher Dr. Karen Van Gundy, associate professor of sociology at UNH, told CBS News. “But whether marijuana smokers go on to use other illicit drugs depends more on social factors like being exposed to stress and being unemployed—not so much whether they smoked a joint in the eighth grade.”
Will this study make any difference for those people convinced—convinced!—the marijuana is a gateway drug? Probably not. Will our national drug policy leaders still spout the gateway drug fallacy and insist on wasting billions of dollars fighting a staggeringly ineffective War on Drugs, much of it focused on marijuana? Probably.
As I explored in my 2009 book about addiction in this country, science and rational thinking have seldom governed the ways we think about, and seek to address, the very real problem of addiction in America. (I argue in my book that untreated addiction—including the abuse of legal and illegal drugs—is our costliest and most pressing public health problem.)
While we distract ourselves by demonizing a drug—marijuana—that is not addictive for most people and kills no one, we essentially ignore our biggest and most pressing current addiction problem: skyrocketing prescription drug abuse.