The subject of marijuana has become hotly debated in recent years. In particular, some states have made its sale and use legal under certain circumstances. Many point to marijuana as being the ultimate gateway drug, or one whose use paves the way for the abuse of other illicit substances such as cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. Yet, there are others who would argue that marijuana use is no more a predictor of future drug abuse than smoking or drinking.
What Skeptics Are Saying
Those who claim that marijuana does not meet the qualification of being a gateway drug point to the fact that many of the people who admit to using it claim that they never go on to experiment with more serious substances. Another issue that gateway drug skeptics cite is the availability of marijuana. It’s typically much easier to secure pot than it is other drugs. Thus, those who suffer from drug addiction and claim that their problems started with marijuana may have simply started with it because it was easier for them to get.
What the Clinical Evidence Shows
However, clinical evidence does exist that seems to support the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC (delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana) and other related cannabinoids have been shown in animal studies to exhibit a decreasing effect on the reaction of dopamine reward centers in the brain.
Research has also shown that THC contributes to a biological phenomenon known as cross-sensitization. Animals who had early exposure to THC tended to exhibit a far more prominent behavioral response to subsequent administrations of THC as well as other substances than those in control groups. Simply put, this could mean that those who have experimented with marijuana could experience a much different reaction to the later use of other illicit drugs than those who have never tried pot before. However, substances such as nicotine and alcohol can also have a cross-sensitizing effect.
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All debates aside, marijuana abuse and addiction can be harmful to one’s physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being. Seeking clinical treatment for such an addiction can help break its hold over one’s life.
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