With the recent passage of crime Bill C-10 into law, we can expect a lot of young and first-time Canadian marijuana users in our high school system to do real time in jail. That’s because of the Conservative government’s’ tough-on-crime agenda and legendary disdain for evidence. And, especially, the long-standing societal myth that marijuana is the “gateway drug” leading to the use of other illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Well, a report in the August 2012 edition of The Journal of School Health debunks the myth.
The real gateway drug is the more socially-acceptable drug: alcohol.
The report follows a study that further investigated the so-called Gateway Drug Theory, which suggests that licit drugs serve as a “gateway” toward the use of other, illicit drugs. The study used a nationally representative sample from the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey “to determine which drug (alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana) was the actual “gateway” drug.”
The study applies to Canada on numerous levels. First, the investigation sampled high school seniors. The high school “cultures” of both Canada and the U.S. are alike. And so we can safely argue that the survey sample, results and recommendations are applicable here.
Second, in its rush to pass Bill C-10 (Safe Streets and Communities Act) into law, the Conservatives left no room for evidence-based democratic dialogue on the legislation. The limited discussion that took place referred mostly to “young offenders”. We didn’t considered young offenders in the high school system.
“Results from the Guttman scale indicated that alcohol represented the “gateway” drug, leading to the use of tobacco, marijuana, and other illicit substances. Moreover, students who used alcohol exhibited a significantly greater likelihood of using both licit and illicit drugs,” the report says.
The report suggests that “alcohol should receive primary attention in school-based substance abuse prevention programming, as the use of other substances could be impacted by delaying or preventing alcohol use. Therefore, it seems prudent for school and public health officials to focus prevention efforts, policies, and monies, on addressing adolescent alcohol use.
Photo: The Jeenyus Corner