NYT: A comeback for the gateway drug theory?

Is the gateway drug theory making a comeback? A new article from The New York Times by Douglas Quenqua took a look at new studies and what they found about the impact on marijuana, nicotine, and alcohol on harder drug use.

From the report:

A Columbia University study published in November in Science Advances showed that rats exposed to alcohol were far more likely than other rats to push a lever that released cocaine.

Most critical to the viability of gateway theory, both studies found there was no enabling effect when the order of the drugs was reversed. Taking cocaine did not make the rodents more susceptible to the effects of alcohol or nicotine, supporting the idea that some drugs are better positioned than others to act as place-setters.

But not all studies agree with the gateway drug theory. Quenqua notes:

Another knock on the gateway theory: In Japan, where marijuana use is far lower than in most Western countries, only 83 percent of illicit drug users started out smoking pot, according to a 2010 study. And there is now mounting evidence that factors such as poverty and poor social environment are a greater predictor of hard drug use than early exposure to soft drugs.

The full article is well-worth a read, and includes advice on how to talk to your kids about “soft” drugs and the potential long-term impact on their health and wellness. Give it a read over at The New York Times.