Gateway theories are among the most prevalent anti-marijuana slogans. Prohibitionists contend that marijuana users graduate to stronger drugs. While it is true that the major portion of heroin users tired marijuana at some point in their life, it does not follow that every marijuana user will eventually become addicted to heroin. Surveys of narcotic abusers indicate that many did use marijuana before using harder drugs, but most also used other supposed gateway drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, before trying marijuana.
The vast majority of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana users do not advance to stronger drugs. Moreover, the majority of Americans who try marijuana (estimated in the tens of millions) do not continue to use cannabis on a habitual basis and often stop using it entirely by the age of 30. The 1999 Institute of Medicine report dismissed any previous credibility of the gateway theory, noting that tobacco and alcohol generally predate marijuana use as gateway drugs.
Related Sections: Addiction, Cerebral Effects, Dependence.