For decades, people have argued that cannabis is a gateway drug, but new research suggests that the gateway actually leads away from socalled harder substances. The study “Substituting cannabis for prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances among medical cannabis patients: The impact of contextual factors,” published in Drug and Alcohol Review this month, found that people who enjoyed cannabis reported reductions in alcohol, prescription and illicit drug use overall. The researchers found that 87 percent of cannabis consumers substituted the plant for one or more drugs and alcohol. Broken down by substance type, 80.3 percent substituted for prescription drugs, 51.7 percent for alcohol and 32.6 percent for illicit drugs.
As for the “won’t somebody please think about the children” argument, patients under 40 were “more likely to substitute cannabis for all three classes of substance.” The researchers ultimately concluded that “the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and could have implications for substance use treatment approaches requiring abstinence from cannabis in the process of reducing the use of other substances.”
Keep in mind, this study involves individuals already using harder substances, so it is not an argument either way on the gateway theory, but it does suggest that cannabis has the potential to help reduce the use of more dangerous substances like alcohol, opiates and benzodiazepines.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD.