Gateway Drug? Cannabis Might Actually Be An Exit-Drug

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Gateway Drug? Cannabis Might Actually Be An Exit-Drug

Ever since prohibition started there has been a persistent myth that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs. However, new research suggests that if anything, it is an exit drug!

Of all the dangerous and addictive substances out there, it is alcohol and prescription medicine that take the largest toll on society. Alcohol is estimated to be responsible for 3.3 million deaths across the globe each year, while addiction to prescribed pharmaceuticals kills more people than all of the illicit drugs combined. This is why it is refreshing news to hear that medical marijuana is lessening their impact.


According to new research published in the journal Addiction Research and Theory, three-quarters of medical cannabis users surveyed said they were using it as a substitute for prescription drugs, alcohol, and other illicit substances. It is wonderful news, as it replaces the often lethal risks, and unwanted side effects, with the safer, milder nature of cannabis.

According to the researchers, of the 404 medical cannabis users recruited, 41% were using cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, 36.1% as a substitute for other illicit drugs, and a whopping 67.8% as a substitute for prescription drugs (participants were allowed to give more than one option).

The top reason given were less withdrawal (67.7%), fewer side-effects (60.4 %), and better symptom management. The authors suggest that this shows patients are already identifying cannabis as a safer, and potentially more effective, alternative to what they were using.

The researchers concluded: “While some studies have found that a small percentage of the general population that uses cannabis may develop a dependence on this substance, a growing body of research on cannabis-related substitution suggests that for many patients cannabis is not only an effective medicine, but also a potential exit drug to problematic substance use. Given the credible biological, social and psychological mechanisms behind these results, and the associated potential to decrease personal suffering and the personal and social costs associated with addiction, further research appears to be justified on both economic and ethical grounds. Clinical trials with those who have had poor outcomes with conventional psychological or pharmacological addiction therapies could be a good starting point to further our under- standing of cannabis-based substitution effect.”

It is so great to see a piece of research that not only refutes the idea that cannabis leads to harder drugs, but also shows it actually achieves the reverse, giving harder drug users a much safer and beneficial way out. Hopefully, we will begin to see much more research echoing these findings, helping to dispel the myth that cannabis causes heavier drug use once and for all!