For decades, the common opinion was that marijuana was a "gateway" that would lead teens to using other stronger drugs. However, a new study has found that the reasons a teen has for using marijuana are a better predictor of other drug use than using marijuana in itself. This may mean that drug educators and counselors might be able to prevent some drug abuse if they focus on the reasons that teens have for trying these substances.
The finding is from a survey of about 15,000 high school seniors conducted between 2000 and 2011 who said they had used marijuana within the last year. The survey asked them about their marijuana use, but also asked about the use of other drugs, such as cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD or other hallucinogens, amphetamines, tranquilizers, and other narcotics.
More than two-thirds of these teens said that they did not use other drugs, the study found.
The teens who said they were using marijuana just to experiment with it had a lower risk of using any of the other drugs. They apparently are not using marijuana for any other reason.
Nearly one in three of the teens said they used marijuana because they were bored. These teens were 43% more likely to try cocaine and 56% more likely to try a hallucinogen other than LSD.
About one in five teens said they used marijuana to achieve insight or understanding. This group was 51% more likely to try a hallucinogen.
Another finding of the study is that one in ten teens who use marijuana say they used it to enhance the effects of other drugs.
The study was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.