Tag Archives: Gateway

Why marijuana may be the most dangerous drug

By Sue B It doesn’t strike people down like pills or heroin does. It doesn’t make the heart explode like cocaine or methamphetamine can. A person in withdrawal from marijuana isn’t screaming in pain. So what makes weed the most dangerous?

Simply because so many people believe that it is harmless. As Richard Adamski, a 30-year marijuana user, put it, “In my strong opinion, cannabis is the most dangerous drug because most people think it isn’t.” Now that he’s stopped consuming cannabis, he says, “I am 66 now and nothing to show for what I’ve done in my life because of marijuana.”

Selling the Idea It’s Harmless

Once a person believes that this drug is harmless, Continue reading

Australian Twins Study Supports Gateway effects of marijuana

Twins who use cannabis by age 17 are 2.1 to 5.2 times more likely to develop addiction issues.  An Australian twins study determined this likelihood by comparing twins who used pot to the co-twins who hadn’t used marijuana.

Although not a gateway for everyone, cannabis often is a gateway for those who become addicted and die.  Study after study has shown a relationship between the use of marijuana and other psychoactive and addictive substances.   Yet marijuana lobbyists twist the issue and say it’s not a gateway drug.

Marijuana is a major cause of drug-related medical and psychiatric emergency room episodes.   Liberalizing marijuana laws escalates this problem.  Some go to the hospital for marijuana-induced psychosis while others seek medical help for vomiting.

The Australian Twins Study

The January 22/29, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the outcome of a well-controlled study designed to determine whether genetic predisposition or environmental factors determine if an underage cannabis user will progress to other drugs.  The findings from this research led to “Escalation of Drug Use in Early-Onset Cannabis Users vs. Co-Twin Control,” by LynskyM, HeathA and BucholzK.

The study found that a twin who had used cannabis by age 17 was significantly more likely to use other drugs.  The same twins were more likely to become drug and alcohol dependent, compared with their co-twin who had not used marijuana.  And there was very little difference whether the twins were fraternal or identical.

Which way will your child go? The Australian twins study found results similar for fraternal and identical twins, supporting the idea of the gateway effects.

In other words, environmental influences can trump genetic predisposition for those who progress from cannabis use to the use of other psychoactive and addictive substances.  For the sake of this study, “environmental factors” were “associations and circumstances” leading to this progression.

According to the authors, “In particular, early access to and use of cannabis may reduce perceived barriers against the use of other illegal drugs and provide access to these drugs.”

The study predicted what has happened in the USA and Canada. For example, a large group of young people who died of overdoses in Massachusetts began their drug use with marijuana.  Politicians continue to consider the overdose problem only an issue with opioids rather than a poly-drug addiction.  People continue to suggest that marijuana will substitute for opioid pain medications, despite the fact that most youth who overdose begin with pot.

Exposure to One Class of Drugs increases consumption of other drugs

The same issue of JAMA carried an editorial entitled “Does Marijuana Use Cause the Use of Other Drugs?”  The author referenced research which found cross-sensitization between repeated exposure to THC (The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and opiates.  “With cross-sensitization, exposure to one class of drug increases consumption of other drug classes, consistent with the existence of a gateway effect.”

The editorial stated, “Prevention efforts will presumably affect the underlying risk and protective factors related to the onset of marijuana use, whether or not these factors are shared with the onset of the use of other illicit drugs. For youths who have already used marijuana, the issue is: can and should intervention programs be developed to target this group at very high risk for progressing to other substances? It appears so.”

Parents, please don’t take early teen marijuana use lightly.  It frequently leads to significant poly-drug abuse problems.   Sometimes the problem stops at marijuana addiction.  Addiction to pot occurs in 1 in 6 users who begin between ages 12 and 17.  Until we stop minimizing the harm of early pot use, we won’t get the drug epidemic under control.  

Heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine users are invariably poly drug-abusers.  Marijuana facilitates their drug abuse.  It can enhance the high, but cannabis also helps to minimize the withdrawal symptoms.

Why would a single policymaker still supports legalization of such a dangerous substance?   Follow the money to answer that question.

 

Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore

by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)   Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s 2017 publication references academic studies which suggest that marijuana primes the brain for other types of drug usage.  Here’s the summary on that subject from page 4, Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore :

MORE THAN FOUR in 10 people who ever use marijuana will go on to use other illicit drugs, per a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.(1) The CDC also says that marijuana users are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.(2)

Although 92% of heroin users first used marijuana before going to heroin, less than half used painkillers before going to heroin.

And according to the seminal 2017 National Academy of Sciences report, “There is moderate evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of substance dependence and/or a substance abuse disorder for substances including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.”(3)

RECENT STUDIES WITH animals also indicate that marijuana use is connected to use and abuse of other drugs. A 2007 Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology study found that rats given THC later self administered heroin as adults, and increased their heroin usage, while those rats that had not been treated with THC maintained a steady level of heroin intake.(4) Another 2014 study found that adolescent THC exposure in rats seemed to change the rodents’ brains, as they subsequently displayed “heroin-seeking” behavior. Youth marijuana use could thus lead to “increased vulnerability to drug relapse in adulthood.”(5)

National Institutes of Health Report

The National Institutes of Health says that research in this area is “consistent with animal experiments showing THC’s ability to ‘prime’ the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. For example, rats previously administered THC show heightened behavioral response not only when further exposed to THC, but also when exposed to other drugs such as morphine—a phenomenon called cross-sensitization.”(6)

Suggestions that one addictive substance replaces another ignores the problem of polysubstance abuse, the common addiction of today.

ADDITIONALLY, THE MAJORITY of studies find that marijuana users are often polysubstance users, despite a few studies finding limited evidence that some people substitute marijuana for opiate medication. That is, people generally do not substitute marijuana for other drugs. Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences report found that “with regard to opioids, cannabis use predicted continued opioid prescriptions 1 year after injury.  Finally, cannabis use was associated with reduced odds of achieving abstinence from alcohol, cocaine, or polysubstance use after inpatient hospitalization and treatment for substance use disorders” [emphasis added].(7)

Moreover, a three-year 2016 study of adults also found that marijuana compounds problems with alcohol. Those who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than adults who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years.(8) Similarly, alcohol consumption in Colorado has increased slightly since legalization. (9)

Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017

Here’s the complete Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017 in pdf form.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin CJ, Wang S, Blanco C Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(2):135-142

2. Centers for Disease Control. Today’s heroin epidemic Infographics more people at risk, multiple drugs abused. CDC, 7 July 2015.

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health andPublic Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (“2017 NAS Report”).

4. Ellgren, Maria et al. “Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Alters Opiate Intake and Opioid Limbic Neuronal Populations in Adult Rats.”Neuropsychopharmacology 32.3 (2006): 607–615.

5. Stropponi, Serena et al. Chronic THC during adolescence increases the vulnerability to stress-induced relapse to heroin seeking in adult rats. European Neuropsychopharmacology Volume 24 , Issue 7 (2014), 1037 – 1045.

6. “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan. 2017. See also Panlilio LV, Zanettini C, Barnes C, Solinas M, Goldberg SR. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats. Neuropsychopharmacol Off Publ Am Coll Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013;38(7):1198-1208; Cadoni C, Pisanu A, Solinas M, Acquas E, Di Chiara G. Behavioural sensitization after repeated exposure to Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cross-sensitization with morphine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(3):259-266.

7.  2017 NAS report.

8.  Weinberger AH, Platt J, Goodwin RD. Is cannabis use associated with an increased risk of onset and persistence of alcohol use disorders? A three-year prospective study among adults in the United States. Drug Alcohol Depend. February 2016.

This is the second recent article on the gateway effects of marijuana use.   Since marijuana has already primed the brains of most people who get addicted to opioids, marijuana cannot replace pain pills.

Vermont House Avoids Vote to Legalize Marijuana

Last Tuesday the Vermont House of Representatives planned to vote on a bill to allow possession and home grows for marijuana.  However, when it came to a floor vote, the pot proponents knew there were not enough votes to pass the bill.

Even though Vermont’s former governor supported legalization, a legalization bill failed miserably in the Vermont House  last year.  The new bill is less expansive than last year’s bill, but legalization appears to be headed for failure this year.

Vermont’s new governor, Phil Scott, has made it clear that the legislature needs to find safeguards against drugged driving.   There is no simple test to measure stoned driving, as there is for drunk driving.  Individuals have a legal right to refuse a blood test, and police must get a court order to administer the tests.  THC levels in the blood may go down during the waiting period.

In October, five teens were killed by a wrong-way driver who had high levels of THC in his blood.  The 36-year-old driver allegedly used marijuana to calm himself, a sign of dependence and addiction.

Crash scene of double fatality, which killed Richard Tom and Joseph Marshall on April 26, 2015. The driver who had been speeding, also had a very high THC measure in his blood. Photo: Elizabeth Murray, in the Burlington Free Press file.

A 17-year-old stoned driver hit and killed Richard Tom, an experienced cyclist with VBT Vermont Biking and Walking Vacations, in April, 2015.  That teen driver, who also died, had 36 nanograms of THC in his blood, way above Colorado’s limit of 5 nanograms. (Many people think Colorado’s limit is insufficient.)

Vermont’s Teen Use of Pot Must be Addressed

To many legislators, teen pot use is also a problem making it difficult to legalize.  The current bill has been sent to the Human Services Committee for additional work aimed to prevent youth marijuana use.    Youth marijuana usage often leads to other opiate pill and heroin abuse.  Last year Vermont had 105 opiate abuse deaths, up from 75 in 2015.

In 2014, one third of Vermont’s traffic fatalities occurred because of drugged drivers, with marijuana frequently mentioned in crash reports.   Vermont decriminalized pot in 2013.

Vermont has less than 625,000 residents, but a number of deaths in recent years were indirectly linked to marijuana use. Jody Herring, who allegedly shot and killed four people in 2015, had mental health issues.  She had initially lost custody of her daughter for lying about her marijuana use.  It was a shocking crime in the small, rural state.