Politicians and community leaders have long used the line that marijuana is a gateway drug when trying to sound tough on drugs. The idea is that marijuana makes you more sensitized toward trying harder and potentially more dangerous drugs. Some data back this up as most hard drug users also used marijuana.
However, the overwhelming majority of marijuana users never progress to other drugs, which has lead many to back down on the gateway claim. But a new study is challenging the new perception as the data now suggest that marijuana IS a gateway drug: to alcohol.
University of Illinois economist Ben Crost and Santiago Guerrero of the Bank of Mexico, reviewed five years worth of data from from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that when American young adults turn 21, their marijuana usage plummets and their alcohol consumptions soars.
So marijuana provides a gateway into alcohol? Not really.
Crost and Guerrero point out that his sudden decrease in the use of marijuana is because they suddenly have easy access to alcohol.
Teens have to obtain both alcohol and marijuana illegally, which makes the choice of which activity to partake in based solely on which is easiest to acquire without being caught. However, when a youth turns 21 and they can legally purchase alcohol the choice between still illegal marijuana and legal to buy alcohol very easy.
Reaching the age where alcohol is legal may not be the only reason that marijuana usage is abandoned. Marijuana usage declines steadily after age 21, from 23 percent at age 20 to 15 percent at age 24. The drop is probably partly due to many students graduating college and looking for jobs, some of which require drug tests, something that is required by over 84 percent of employers.
Using marijuana has become more normalized into American culture as more than half of Americans think it should be legal, something that has changed drastically since 1990 when only 16 percent of Americans wanted legal weed. However, there is still a stigma against marijuana use as 62 percent of Americans would be bothered by legal marijuana use in public places.