Free Essay Sample: Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug

Published: 2022-04-01
Free Essay Sample: Marijuana Is a Gateway Drug
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Marijuana legalization Drug abuse
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1851 words
16 min read

The term gateway drugs mean that low-classified drugs are preceded by the use of dangerous and addictive hard drugs. The gateway theory was created in 1975 as a reaction to disquiets that cannabis use leads to the use of harder substances, such as cocaine and heroin. Prominent gateway theorists gave statistics that validated the association between marijuana and the use of other illegal drugs as well as the connection between the use of drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol and illegal ones such as cocaine and marijuana. The scholars have found that legitimate use of either alcohol or cigarettes come first before marijuana use, which also precedes the use of other prohibited drugs. The documentation of this pattern led to the designation of marijuana as a gateway drug.

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Marijuana is a gateway drug because its use inspires people to try other drugs. This is because drug abuse is a progressive habit and that once initiated, the drugs might lead to a lifetime use. Despite the fact that most people who smoke marijuana never progress to use other hard drugs, some users smoke marijuana and graduate to the use of hard substances. For instance, most high school students in the United States who abuse cigarettes and alcohol used marijuana first (McKenzie & Pinger, 2014). Young people begin using drugs at a young age while the brain is still under development. This alters the reward system in the brain and drugs abused by their peers become appealing to them. Lauwers and Swisher (2015) agree that research done in animals has shown that the exposure to marijuana makes the use of opiate drugs pleasurable.

The gateway theory has been useful in the explanation of marijuana as a gateway drug. It is a social theory that claims that users of marijuana gain access to and use bhang by getting immersed in in the culture of drugs and associating with people who sell hard substances (Fiellin, Tetrault, Becker, Fiellin & Hoff, 2013). The source of marijuana are criminals that sell cannabis and users go to these people for purchases. While here, they are offered other more harmful substances because many drug dealers sell and use marijuana and other hard drugs. Children and young adults who use marijuana come in contact with people who use and sell hard drugs hence they are exposed to opportunities for trying more hard drugs. These people are at high risk of using other substances because of the proximity of marijuana to hard drugs. For instance, if users want to obtain a supply of marijuana, they ought to know whom to contact and the circumstances under which to purchase the drugs. This system of networking leads to the exposure to other drugs because dealers sell marijuana and many other substances.

Moreover, the illegality of marijuana has exasperated the graduation from pot use to other hard substances. For instance, dealers of hard drugs do not trust clients unknown to them because they face stiff penalties if found in possession of these drugs. On the contrary, if users have proved loyal and make a regular purchase of marijuana, they are introduced to harder substances if they show interest or if they know of a friend who wants to use these substances. The introduced user can purchase the drugs and sell to friends and other drug dealers, therefore, leading to the use of hard substances.

Furthermore, people who are at high risk of drug use encountered marijuana first because it is readily available and is usually sold with other drugs. For example, the pharmacological effect of marijuana influences the propensity to use other drugs because marijuana and other hard substances are mostly offered by the same supplier, so if one can purchase marijuana, the chances of such a person coming to contact with other drugs are high. This makes the user prone to other drugs despite independent factors that draw this person to the use of marijuana. Additionally, smoking marijuana is associated with the use of other substance use disorders such as nicotine addiction and alcohol-related disorders (National Institute On Drug Abuse, 2017).

The National Household Survey shows that marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in the United States because more than 15 million Americans smoke every month and more than 6 million use marijuana every day (Gold, 2013). Marijuana is used together with other drugs such as alcohol, cocaine and other illicit drugs. Reports indicate that the new form of marijuana such as Amphetamine is soaked in formaldehyde, but other abusers add insect spray, lysergic acid diethylamide, amphetamines, strychnine, rat poison, and catnip (Gold, 2013). Apart from these drugs, people also use marijuana with alcohol, cocaine, hallucinogens and other illicit drugs.

Alcohol is a common drug that is used with marijuana. Alcohol provides a head-spinning nauseous sensation that ends with a spewing vomit, and one can easily pass out. People who smoke marijuana accompany it with a glass of red wine or alcoholic drinks. Other drugs used with marijuana include Adderall, Salvia Divinorum, and 25I-NBOMe which is a tremendously powerful phenethylamine psychedelic that has wild results on users. Hanson, Venturelli, and Fleckenstein (2011) note that use of marijuana makes one progress to other drugs such as heroin because it is a gateway drug that will principally influence a user to progress to more hard and addictive drugs. This progression depends on the composition of the peer group, relationships in the family, social class, and the age at which abuse begins (Hanson, Venturelli, & Fleckenstein, 2011). Early marijuana use makes youth more exposed to alcohol, crack cocaine and other illicit drugs and they will take advantage of the availability of these drugs to try other hard substances. Some of these youth are likely to develop addictions hence they will continue combining them and will lead to drug dependence. Cicchetti and Cohen (2006) argue that early use of alcohol and tobacco is associated with more opportunities for marijuana and cocaine use and sets a pathway to the early dependence on illicit drugs.

The use of marijuana is the first step in the long-term use of other drugs. According to Newton (2017), a person who smokes marijuana is likely to use drugs such as cocaine than a person who has never tried pot. This is because marijuana is a gateway drug whose use leads to increased risk for using other harmful and illegal substances. This means that an individual who starts using illicit drugs such as marijuana is likely to graduate to more hard substances such as heroin and cocaine. For instance, adolescents who smoke marijuana are 85 times more susceptible to cocaine use as compared to those who do not smoke marijuana while more than 60 percent of adolescents who begun smoking marijuana before they clocked 15 years are likely to move to cocaine (Newton, 2017). This is because a small percentage of people who use cocaine and heroin first started with these before moving ahead with marijuana. Balter (2000) agrees that adolescents who moved on to use cocaine likely begun to use marijuana approximately two years before their peers who smoke marijuana.

The knowledge of gateway drugs and marijuana is suitable for addictions professional in their work with clients in giving guidance and counselling to youths who use gateway drugs in their lives and are unaware of the association between marijuana and hard drugs. For instance, additions professional could teach drug prevention strategies in schools so that students can learn the dangers and effects of marijuana use and the possibility of graduating to hard substances. Addictions professionals could liaise with community leaders, healthcare professionals and policymakers in the provision of funding and education needed to foster awareness among the youth.

Gateway drug knowledge is also essential for addictions professionals to offer assistance for addicts to overcome addictions. Once an addict has achieved sobriety, an addiction professional can enable one to gain adaptive skills in the process of working to regain emotional and physical strength. Also, this information is crucial in exploring the source or cause of the addiction, and assist the person to employ coping strategies for the addiction. The person being treated and the therapist can set long-term goals that include accepting responsibility for the addiction actions, rebuilding damaged relationships and working on the release of guilt.

The therapist can also use this information in helping addicts to overcome marijuana and other drugs with the use of various therapies that are helpful in the healing process. For instance, the therapist will use cognitive behavior therapy and motivational interviewing therapy that are helpful in inspiring a person to change dependence on marijuana and other drugs. The therapist also uses this information in the provision of a supplementary form of support to attend self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and other therapies that are meant to assist in the achievement of a 12-step process used in handling addictions.

An addiction professional uses this information in determining the immediate intervention needed for drug addicts and whether the family of the addict can return for thorough assessment later or can be done immediately. It also helps the addiction professional in referring an individual to a detoxification program or any other appropriate treatment so that the addict can do away with addictions to marijuana and other hard drugs (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2004).

Lastly, the therapist uses this information in helping the addicts in primary assessing their strengths which is crucial in revealing patterns of abuse and family interactions. These interactions include the determination of alliances, communication and meaning, interpersonal boundaries and conflicts that may arise because of the abuse of hard substances. The professional will offer the methods of evaluating the drug interactions and discover issues of substances abuse. This is because marijuana addicts do not seek help because they fear being imprisoned or stigmatized hence will seek help with the assistance of a friend, family member or a colleague.

In conclusion, marijuana is a gateway drug because when consumed, it sets the stage for the use of more harmful and addictive substances such as nicotine, meth, cocaine and heroin. This is because marijuana is responsible for boosting dopamine which increases pleasure, thus leads the users to pursue harder drugs that cause more release of dopamine. Marijuana also prepares the brain for a reaction to other hard substances, heightens the activity of the brain and could make abusers more prone to stronger substances.


Balter, L. (2000). Parenthood in America: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2004). Substance abuse treatment and family therapy.

Cicchetti, D., & Cohen, D. J. (Eds.). (2006). Developmental Psychopathology, Volume 3: Risk, disorder, and adaptation (Vol. 3). John Wiley & Sons.

Fiellin, L. E., Tetrault, J. M., Becker, W. C., Fiellin, D. A., & Hoff, R. A. (2013). Previous use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana and subsequent abuse of prescription opioids in young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(2), 158-163.

Gold, M. S. (2013). Marijuana (Vol. 1). Springer Science & Business Media.

Hanson, G., Venturelli, P., & Fleckenstein, A. (2011). Drugs and Society. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Lauwers, J., & Swisher, A. (2015). Counseling the nursing mother. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

McKenzie, J. F., & Pinger, R. R. (2014). An introduction to community and public health. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

National Institute On Drug Abuse. (2017). Marijuana. Retrieved...

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