If marijuana isn’t the most prevalent “gateway” drug, what is?

The term “gateway drug” is familiar to many. But does familiar mean understood? According to a recent study done by The Journal of School Health, many of us are misinformed of what the main gateway drug actually is.

The study finds that the term is accurate but the thoughts behind “gateway drug” automatically assume marijuana as its primary associate with more illicit drug use. The truth about gateway drugs was revealed through an article written on The Raw Story by Steven C Webster.

The term “gateway drug” is familiar to many. But does familiar mean understood? According to a recent study done by The Journal of School Health, many of us are misinformed of what the main gateway drug actually is.

The study finds that the term is accurate but the thoughts behind “gateway drug” automatically assume marijuana as its primary associate with more illicit drug use. The truth about gateway drugs was revealed through an article written on The Raw Story by Steven C Webster.

The gateway drug blame is now focused on the most pervasive and socially accepted drug in American life: alcohol. Marijuana use, according to this study, is not the primary indicator of whether a person will move on to more dangerous substances.

 “By delaying the onset of alcohol initiation, rates of both licit substance abuse like tobacco and illicit substance use like marijuana and other drugs will be positively affected, and they’ll hopefully go down,” study co-author Adam E. Barry, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Health Education & Behavior, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview.

“So, basically, if we know what someone says with regards to their alcohol use, then we should be able to predict what they respond to with other [drugs],” he explained. “Another way to say it is, if we know someone has done [the least prevalent drug] heroin, then we can assume they have tried all the others [more prevalent]” such as alcohol.

And while that standardized progression certainly doesn’t fit every single drug user, the study took that into account too. “There were a low enough number of errors that you are able to accurately predict [future substance abuse behavior]… with about 92 percent accuracy,” Barry said.

What was most alarming from the article were statistics comparing high school senior drinkers and non-drinkers. Those who had consumed alcohol at least once in high school “were 13 times more likely to use cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.” Age of onset is a huge contributing factor in prevention substance abuse and illegal drug use.

The study’s author associated the results to how much access children have to alcohol and lesser perceived risk than other substances. However, the perceived risk is a dangerous misconception. A study published in 2010 in the medical journal Lancet “ ranked alcohol as the most harmful drug of all, above heroin, crack, meth, cocaine and tobacco…The Lancet study found that harms to others near the user were more than double those of the second most harmful drug, heroin.”

But what does this message mean to us in Southington? It serves as an important reminder that as parents and families, that we are the first line of communication to talk to youth about the dangers of drinking and more specifically, the reality of drinking and what it could lead to, knowing now that alcohol is more of a gateway drug than marijuana and more of a predictor of illicit drug use than anything else. We need to begin taking measures to protect our youth and delay onset but locking our liquor cabinets, knowing our children’s friend’s parents and teach resistance skills. Together we can change the misconception and prevent many other risk-taking behaviors by taking the proactive step and not hosting under-age drinking parties, not providing alcohol to teens and by keeping open, positive lines of communication with our kids.