Putting Cannabis's Gateway Theory to the Test


We found that marijuana use within itself wasn't a risk factor for use of other drugs," said lead author Joseph Palamar, an assistant professor in the New York University Langone Medical Center's department of population health. "People do generally use marijuana before other drugs, but that doesn't mean marijuana is a cause of [using] those other drugs."

source WebMD

The Gateway Drug Theory suggests that licit drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, serve as a “gateway” toward the use of other, illicit drugs. However, there remains some discrepancy regarding which drug: alcohol, tobacco, or even marijuana serves as the initial “gateway” drug subsequently leading to the use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

The purpose of this investigation was to determine which drug (alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana) was the actual “gateway” drug leading to additional substance use among a nationally representative sample of high school seniors.

Video: Marijuana Gateway Myth

Cannabis Research Journals

Journal of Experimental Criminology

2015 - USA: Abstract ~ Ready for Retirement: The Gateway Drug Hypothesis.

Substance Use & Misuse

2012 - USA: Study ~ Alcohol as a gateway drug: A study of U.S.A 12th graders.

Journal of School Health

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2011 - USA: Study ~ Previous Exposure to 9 -Tetrahydrocannibinol Enhances Locomotor Responding to but Not Self-Administration of

Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Experiments

2010 - Study ~ Evaluating the drug use "gateway" theory using cross-national data: Consistency and associations of the order of initiation of drug use among participants in the WHO (World Mental Health Surveys)

Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2009 - Spain: Study ~ Cannabidiol, a nonpsychotropic component of cannabis, inhibits cue-induced heroin seeking and normalizes discrete mesolimbic neuronal disturbances.


2009 - USA: Study ~ Adolescent exposure to chronic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol blocks opiate dependence in maternally deprived rats.


Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2004 - Netherlands: Abstract ~ Endogenous cannabinoids are not involved in cocaine reinforcement and development of cocaine-induced behavioural sensitization.

European neuropsychopharmacology

2003 - Australia/ Netherlands: Abstarct ~ Is cannabis a stepping-stone for cocaine?

Journal of Health Economics

2002 - USA: Study ~ Reassessing the gateway effect

Addiction Journal

2001 - USA: Study - Variation in youthful risks of progression from alcohol and tobacco to marijuana and to hard drugs across generations.

American Journal of Public Health

2001 - UK: Abstract ~ Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol releases and facilitates the effects of endogenous enkephalins: reduction in morphine withdrawal syndrome without change in rewarding effect.

European Journal of Neuroscience

2001 - UK: Abstract Reduction of opioid dependence by the CB1 antagonist SR141716A in mice: evaluation of the interest in pharmacotherapy of opioid addiction.

British Journal of Pharmacology