Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Its widespread use has led some to believe that it is no more dangerous than cigarettes (with some claiming that it is less dangerous than cigarettes); others argue that regardless of its neurobiological impact, it should be avoided as it is a gateway drug to other illicit drugs. What does the research tell us about this debate? How would you respond to clients that hold each perspective?
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Cannabis as a gateway drug to substance abuse has been widely contested globally, with research claiming that marijuana is associated with the addition of other substances or nicotine addiction. According to a study, early exposure to cannabis use may reduce responses in the brain’s dopamine reward regions, making an individual more vulnerable to associative drug abuse such as alcohol or tobacco (NIH., 2020). However, most individuals who engage in cannabis consumption do not engage with other illicit drugs; therefore, to determine cannabis as a gateway drug to illegal drug usage., an assessment of the environmental factors and the associative social interactions the population encounters.
The notion that cannabis as an illicit drug is no more dangerous than cigarettes has also been used to explain that cannabis is not a gateway drug to substance abuse. However, the drug has minimal side effects, such as impaired cognitive development and psychomotor performance. There are no significant health risks associated with cannabis consumption; infact, the medicinal properties associated with cannabis are more numerous than the health risks in the usage of cannabis (Lopez, 2016). Therefore, the rationale employed to explain whether marijuana increases the risk of associating other illicit drugs lies in the social determinants of health to determine whether the risks of engaging are encouraged by the social environments or the individual’s needs and exposure to nicotine and alcoholic products as alternatives for cannabis.
Conclusively., cannabis is classified as an illicit drug, and its use is prohibited. The social-environmental structures built around the drug are associated with the exposure to various dangerous drugs, making it a viable gateway drug as it encourages consumption. Research has not determined any neurobiological factors related to the link of cannabis to other illicit drugs, and the risks associated are primarily linked to social determinants.
Lopez, G. (2016). Is marijuana a gateway drug? Here’s what the research says. VOX. Accessed from: https://www.vox.com/2016/4/29/11528410/cannabis-gateway-drug-theory
NIH. (2020). Is marijuana a gateway drug? Cannabis (Marijuana) Research Report. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed from: https://nida.nih.gov/