Smoking marijuana when bored increases the likelihood that a teenager will go on to try harder, class A drugs, scientists have warned. Cannabis is the most prevalent drug in the US, and is licensed for medicinal use in 23 states. A new study has now revealed that around 70 per cent of the 2.8 million individuals who first used illegal drugs in 2013, reported that marijuana was their first drug. Researchers identified the different reasons teenagers give for using cannabis, as well as other illicit drugs.
Cannabis is Not a Gateway Drug
They found students who reported using drugs did so to tackle boredom, to experiment and in a bid to attain insight into taking drugs. To examine the links between smoking pot and progressing to harder drugs, including cocaine and heroin, scientists at New York University analyzed data from around 130 public and private schools across 48 states.
The results showed that while the two-thirds of teenagers who took cannabis, did not progress to use harder drugs, those who smoked marijuana to alleviate their boredom were at risk. Approximately 15,000 high school seniors, aged 17 to 18, take part in the annual Monitoring The Future survey.
Researchers focused on those students who reported using cannabis in the previous 12 months.
The study looked at the self-reported use of eight other illicit drugs: powder cocaine, crack, heroin, LSD, other psychedelics, and non-medical use of amphetamines or stimulants, tranquillizers, and narcotics.
Researchers found that using marijuana to alleviate boredom was linked with an increased risk of reporting use of cocaine and hallucinogens, other than LSD. Almost one in five (19 per cent) of those students using cannabis for insight or understanding and this reason was also positively related to use of hallucinogens other than LSD. It seems that only a subset of illicit marijuana users is at risk for use of other illicit drugs.
And, 11 per cent reported using marijuana to increase the effects of other drugs. Dr Joseph Palamar said: ‘Interestingly, we found that using marijuana ‘to experiment’ decreased risk of reporting use of each of the eight drugs examined before adjusting for other variables.
‘The marijuana users in this sample who used to experiment were consistently at low risk for use of non-medical use of prescription narcotics.’
However, Dr Palamar warned this does not mean experimenting with cannabis is a means of preventing further drug use. Rather, among recent marijuana users, those who say they’re merely just trying it are often at low risk for moving on to other drugs, he noted.
Researchers also found infrequent use in the last year, was generally not found to be a risk factor for use of other illegal drugs.
Dr Palamar said: ‘It seems that only a subset of illicit marijuana users is at risk for use of other illicit drugs.