Is marijuana a 'gateway drug'?
via AP

Is marijuana a 'gateway drug'?

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After President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency, the chair of Trump's opioid commission, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was quick to link the crisis to marijuana. Despite evidence to the contrary, Christie argues marijuana is a "gateway drug," and efforts to legalize it should be stopped. But most experts agree the pharmaceutical industry―not pot―is largely to blame for the epidemic, and marijuana is harmless. What do you think?

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The "gateway hypothesis" has been around for decades and is often used to rebut arguments for legalizing pot. But according to German Lopez at Vox, there is no solid evidence to support the idea that pot is somehow a "gateway" to harder drugs.

It's true that marijuana use correlates with harder drug use. But so does alcohol and tobacco use. There doesn't have to be a causal link between marijuana or alcohol and harder drugs to explain this; it could just be that the things that drive someone to marijuana or alcohol — boredom, depression, social circles — can just as easily drive them to other drugs. Perhaps the correlation is actually exposing those underlying factors, not some gateway effect.
So there is no good causal evidence for the gateway hypothesis. There is some weak correlational evidence, but it can be easily support with an entirely different idea — drug users tend to start with more accessible drugs — over the gateway hypothesis.
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But in an interview on "Morning Joe," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested marijuana does, in fact, function as a gateway drug and is therefore relevant to the opioid crisis.

Watch the full interview here:

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) did, in fact, release a study in September supporting Christie's claims.

The analysis indicated that respondents who reported past-year marijuana use in their initial interview had 2.2 times higher odds than nonusers of meeting DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for prescription opioid use disorder by the follow-up. They also had 2.6 times greater odds of initiating prescription opioid misuse, defined as using a drug without a prescription, in higher doses, for longer periods, or for other reasons than prescribed.

But experts have argued as to whether the relationship between marijuana use and opioid addiction is causal or just correlated. 

And critics argue Christie's constant desire to label pot a "gateway drug" and link it to the opioid epidemic is evidence of his inability to understand addiction.

And argue the pharmaceutical industry―not pot―should be blamed for the opioid epidemic. 

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