Both Missing And Getting The Point: The Gateway Theory

A recent comment led me to one of my first ever posts, one about the Gateway Theory of drug use. For those unaware of the fallacy, it goes like this: many/most/almost all hard drug users started with softer drugs like marijuana, therefore marijuana causes harder drug use. It is the gateway to cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, etc.

My post concluded with:

Let’s ignore for now the refutation that a higher percentage of cocaine and heroin addicts consumed alcohol than marijuana, and we all “know” that alcohol use does not cause cocaine or heroin addiction… (since many readers, like me, are occasional alcohol consumers who have never tried cocaine or heroin)

Let me ask you this: don’t you think the percentage of cocaine and heroin users that drank milk sometime in their lives (before use of the drug) is probably almost 100%?
Correlation does not prove causation. That’s just another logical fallacy brought to you by the Drug Czar.

Arthur left this comment:

This becomes pretty vacuous at the end. Do you win a lot of cases?

The reason one would think that "the percentage of cocaine and heroin users that drank milk sometime in their lives...is probably almost 100 percent" is unsurprisingly because the percentage of nearly everyone who drank milk sometime in the lives is probably almost 100 percent.

Yes, Arthur. That’s true, and therefore it would be inane to argue that because the use of [milk/marijuana] almost always precedes the use of [cocaine/heroin] that the first caused the second. Vacuous indeed. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
John S - February 2, 2010 11:24 AM

Yes, the study that lead to the gateway theory is invalid. If another study were to be done for actual scientific validity, they would need to poll a random selection of drug users and ask pointed questions, such as "Did your use of marijuana cause you to consider taking harder drugs?" or "Is your heroin addiction a result of your marijuana use?"

WakeUp People - April 12, 2010 5:39 PM

First of all the basic point that "correlation does not prove causation" is a truism, and is moreover a hugely important idea for folks to remember.

However, I believe that marijuana use can be a "gateway drug" for many...but not because of any inherent quality of marijuana.
Any "gateway drug" quality of marijuana is solely because marijuana is ILLEGAL.

Marijuana should not be considered a "drug" any more than alcohol is a drug. The logic being: if marijuana is a drug, and a college kid smokes some pot, he suddenly sees himself branded as a drug user anyway and is much more apt to try a line of coke too.

The crowd he's hanging around are more likely to be people who are into a "drug" culture and more willing to break the law.
AND, he's going to have to interact with drug dealers (who often times will push the harder drugs on a kid who OTHERWISE WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THEM if weed were available to him like alcohol is).

To make it worse, the money he uses to buy marijuana illegally often goes to foreign drug cartels which rape/rob/murder innocents.

Add to all this the fact that the drug is less harmful than alcohol (medically speaking), does not produce violent tendencies, etc, and even had productive medicinal uses to boot!

The question then becomes, "What is the ACTUAL justification for marijuana being illegal?" And if one studies the history of how marijuana became purposefully maligned by people like Hearst for monetary reasons....it is abundantly clear.
Then next question becomes, "What are we going to do about legalizing it?"

patrick j - September 26, 2010 1:14 AM

ur an idiot if u think people that are addicted to harder drugs started them BECAUSE they started with pot, u can start with any drug,chances are u have smoked if ur in to harder stuff but in no way does it mean marijiuana is a gateway drug, theres no gateway, once you decide to be a drugy its a open field

patrick - September 26, 2010 1:19 AM

if u think people that are addicted to harder drugs started them BECAUSE they started with pot well then your thoughts do not matter, u can start with any drug,chances are u have smoked if ur in to harder stuff but in no way does it mean marijiuana is a gateway drug, theres no gateway, once you decide to be a drugy its a open field

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