Closing The ‘Gateway’ To Drug Abuse — With Cannabis

By chillinwill · Apr 24, 2010 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    For decades opponents of marijuana law reform policies have falsely argued that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ to drug abuse — a guilt-by-association charge that implies that because tens of millions of people have used cannabis and a minority of these tens of millions have also tried other drugs that somehow it must have been the pot that triggered the hard drug use.

    But while reformers have been consistent — and accurate — to point out that the so-called ‘gateway theory’ lacks any statistical support (for example, the U.S. government contends that more than four in ten Americans have used cannabis, yet fewer than two percent have ever tried heroin), few in our movement have publicized the fact that for many people cannabis can be a powerful ‘exit drug’ for those looking to curb or cease their use of alcohol, opiates, or narcotics. For instance:

    A 2010 study published in the Harm Reduction Journal demonstrating that cannabis-using adults enrolled in substance abuse treatment programs fared equally or better than nonusers in various outcome categories, including treatment completion.

    A 2009 survey published in the Harm Reduction Journal finding that 40 percent of respondents said used marijuana as a substitute for alcohol, and 26 percent used it to replace their former use of more potent illegal drugs.

    A 2009 study published in the American Journal on Addictions reporting that moderate cannabis use and improved retention in naltrexone treatment among opiate-dependent subjects in a New York state inpatient detoxification program.

    A 2009 preclinical study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology demonstrating that oral THC suppressed sensitivity to opiate dependence and conditioning.

    Based on this and other emerging evidence, investigators at the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, California are now enrolling residents in twelve-step-like classes that use cannabis to quit heroin, pills, cigarettes, alcohol, and other potentially addictive substances.

    Oaklanders Quitting Oxycontin with Cannabis
    via The East Bay Express

    For years, there have been anecdotal reports about people using cannabis to quit harder drugs. The process is called “substitution”, and it’s a tactic that’s beginning to be endorsed by the “harm reduction” philosophy of mental health.

    … So Harborside crafted a program that’s similar to traditional twelve-step programs, but ignores the pot smoking.

    … Janichek is tracking the outcomes of Harborside’s free, cannabis-positive mental health services, with the goal of extrapolating the data into guidelines and replicating the services in other dispensaries.

    It will be interesting to see the results of this program in the coming months — as well as the response (read: outcry) from the traditional drug treatment community.

    One can expect that Harborside’s findings will further undermine the notion that cannabis is an alleged ‘gateway’ to hard drug use, and strengthen the argument that the plant may, in fact, be a useful tool for deterring the initiation or continuation of drug abuse.

    By: Paul Armentano
    April 23, 2010
    NORML Blog

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    As a short anecdote, SWIM quit Xanax, Opiates, Nicotine, Alcohol and Marijuana after a 3 week binge. For 4 days SWIM couldn't eat, sleep, cold-sweats, etc. On the 5th day SWIM started smoking weed again and things slowly returned to normal.
  2. dyingtomorrow
    I think the government MADE marijuana into a gateway drug.

    By that I mean, feeding outright lies and bullshit to children about it, and then desensitizing them (when they try pot for the first time and figure out the lies) to important messages about drugs that are actually addictive and severely life-destructive. Marijuana was a gateway drug for SWIM - after going through the D.A.R.E. program, hearing all the scare tactics, and then trying marijuana, SWIM just stopped listening to anything else any authority figure had to say about drugs. Then he ended up a heroin addict.

    I have to admit marijuana is a gateway drug in a certain sense. It exposes people to new ideas and counter culture. One reason most people don't use drugs because they don't float within the orbit of their life and culture. Typically hanging around people who smoke weed desensitizes one to "taboo" and also puts them in a situation where other drugs are available. You tried pot and nothing bad happened right? Why not something else, after all it is probably just over exaggerated danger like it is with weed. Unfortunately this logic doesn't hold, and leads many people down a dangerous path.
  3. Euthanatos93420
    Quite true. If marijuana is a gateway to anything it's the realization that one's government is blatantly lying. This 'gateway' is much as you say, a construction of theirs and not an inherent function of the drug itself.
  4. Simplepowa
  5. Terrapinzflyer
    Actually- there is a study starting to use psilocybin as a treatment for smoking (tobacco) cessation. If sucessful there is a desire to expand it for treating other addictions. (sorry- don't have my notes from the MAPS conference handy but want to say this is related to Dr Charles Grob)
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