Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Gateway to drug use

Gateway to drug use

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, November 16, 2004 11:21 PM

There is no doubt anymore in the minds of experts in the field that the use of tobacco and alcohol among youngsters is more likely to result in later use of illegal drugs. Many studies have supported the “gateway” theory of youthful drug involvement: “That once the use of tobacco or alcohol begins, there is greater likelihood of marijuana use, and once marijuana use begins, there is greater likelihood of other illegal drug use.”

Dr. Kathleen Etz of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a US government agency, has written that a new study has again confirmed this but has focused on a concept called “drug exposure opportunities.” Writes Dr. Etz: “We know that earlier drug use is associated with later, more advanced use; however, this research identifies a previously overlooked aspect of this transition: opportunities to use.”

The study should cause parents who take cigarette smoking and alcohol use lightly and “only a part of growing up” a measure of concern.

“The researchers found that alcohol and tobacco users were more likely than nonusers to have an opportunity to try marijuana and were also more likely to try the drug when the opportunity arose.

About 75 percent of alcohol or tobacco users reported an opportunity to try marijuana by age 18 and more than 85 percent of them made the transition to marijuana use. Only 25 percent of nonsmokers and nondrinkers were given an opportunity to try marijuana by the same age. Of these, fewer than 25 percent began smoking marijuana within six years after they were first given the opportunity. Overall, alcohol and tobacco users were seven times more likely to start using marijuana than individuals who had used neither alcohol nor tobacco.”

These findings (there were 42,624 individuals in the study) should cause parents to sit up, take notice and rethink how they view early alcohol and tobacco use.

And listen to this: “Prior marijuana use was closely associated with the opportunity to try cocaine and the likelihood of young people’s starting to use cocaine once given the opportunity. Among the young people given the opportunity to try cocaine, those who were already using marijuana were 15 times more likely to use cocaine than those who did not use marijuana. About 50 percent of marijuana users used cocaine within 2 years of their first opportunity to do so. However, among young people who never used marijuana, fewer than 10 percent initiated cocaine use.”

Since shabu is the poor man’s cocaine, I believe the same is true of the link between marijuana and shabu usage. It all makes sense. Young people are strongly susceptible to peer pressure. Once tobacco and alcohol enter into a group of friends, the pressure is on for all to use. And when marijuana and shabu are brought in, that same pressure is exerted on all to conform and use those drugs too. My years of working with drug addicts confirm this. Every single addict I know started using because of a friend.

Parents who learn that their kids are going with drug users should see red flags and get serious about helping their children exit from the group before it’s too late.


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