What is gateway drug theory?
The gateway effect, also known as ôgateway drug theoryöŁ and ôgateway hypothesisöŁ appeared to explain how cannabis as well as other less deleterious drug substances (including tobacco, alcohol and black coffee) can lead to the use of more serious and dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine and even criminal activities. It is supposed that once you have tasted one of these öślight’ drugs, you become more predisposed to go on and to try something stronger, as the ôgateöŁ to the faulty life has been opened. This theory has been widely exploited by prohibitionists, and the research goes on to present more evidence. ôHyperbolic prohibitionists insist we stand on the high precipice of increased psychosis, and that the metaphorical door is really a gateway to a hard drug hell,öŁ Fritz & Rick Cusick (2010, xii) ironically underline.
Biochemical and socially constructed gateway effects
To be more specific, there are several explanations of how this ôdooröŁ or the ôgateöŁ is opened or passed. As Fritz & Rick Cusick (2010, 235) agree, ôit is possible that the consumption of cannabis can lead to the use of hard drugs, both because of the situations involved in cannabis consumption and the psychoactive affects of cannabis consumption on human imagination.öŁ First of all, there is a biological and chemical effect which seems to be the most available for laboratory research. Thus, Gabriel Nahas (1985, 44) has revealed the following: ôIt appears that the biochemical changes induced by marijuana in the brain result in drug-seeking, drug taking behavior, which in many instances will lead the user to experiment with other pleasurable substances. The risk of progression from marijuana to cocaine to heroin is now well documented.öŁ There is plenty of studies which can be brought in support of Nahas’ statement, as the effect of drugs on brain cells has been eloquently described in numerous works. Hence it can be concluded that after the constant contact with the drug substances coming from marijuana human brain becomes more vulnerable to other substances and begins to search them, as the emotion of pleasure becomes unavailable after addiction is here to stay. If a person becomes addicted to marijuana, the latter becomes no more the source of entertainment and relief, but it becomes the necessity, which is often even bigger than that one which can be satisfied by the same amounts of cannabis. Therefore, one begins to try something stronger. Especially it is a threat for young brains that are even more vulnerable to the pharmacological effects of drugs. This sequence seems to be quite logical, but the matter is, there is still no clear evidence of whether marijuana causes addiction or not.
The data are still controversial. Some of them are really disturbing and provide much material to think over. For example, Sarah Kershaw and Rebecca Cathcart (2009) have presented several stories of obsession caused by the long years of marijuana addiction. One of their interviewees has called smoking pot a slow form of suicide and considers that she is as sick as hard drug abusers. Though marijuana cannot lead to fatal overdose, habitual use also destroys health and even lives. Furthermore, the research has shown that now the more-potent pot is spread, which contains greater amounts of THC, and thus is more likely to cause addiction. Dr. Richard N. Rosenthal, chairman of psychiatry at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, has alarmed: ôWe need to be very mindful of what we are unleashing out of a Pandora’s Box hereöŁ (Kershaw & Cathcart 2009). In the 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association it was claimed that the stronger cannabis (with higher concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is contributing to higher addiction rates. Still, ôthe gateway argument cannot depend on neuropharmacology to support the claim that cannabis users will ultimately need a stronger high found in hard drugs,öŁ Fritz & Rick Cusick (2010, 232) argue. The other evidence is that now there are more adults who admitted to treatment centers for primary marijuana and hashish addictions than those who admitted for primary addictions to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. The data was provided by 2007 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There was one survey showing that one who never tried a pot is 04 times less likely to use cocaine in future than those who smoke hemp. However, the opponents claim that the government data are overwrought and gathered in a narrow row, without taking to account certain circumstances, like the fact that many marijuana users are attracted to treatment against their will, by law enforcement. ôThe scientific evidence, which governments keep paying for only to ignore, is that cannabis is not a gateway drug, that is not addictive, that it offers considerable health benefits and only minimal health risks, and that its users are not prone to acts of violence or other misbehavior,öŁ Fritz & Rick Cusick (2010, 134) put out.
Another problem is a psychological and a socially constructed effect of marijuana use. ôThe gateway argument against cannabis consumption relies on the notion that the use of cannabis weakens our resolve to avoid other more dangerous drugs,öŁ Fritz & Rick Cusick state (2010, 226). Once a person has tasted cannabis, which is still prohibited in the states and thus is available only at the black marker, he or she feels already involved in some crime and unconsciously may decide that now nothing is impossible to them and proceed significantly due to the protest they want to express to the society, to the establishment and to the system of rules they have to put up with against their will. At the same time, taking drugs is often a kind of weakness, and thus the will of a person may be broken under the influence of regular marijuana use. Especially it is dangerous for adolescents, whose psyche is still unformed and unstable and is vulnerable to any kinds of impacts. Therefore, getting under this influence, ôlight drugöŁ users are likely to progress to ôhard drugs.öŁ