Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Author: David Ho, Associated Press Writer


People born after the 1960s are less likely than baby boomers to go from 
using marijuana to heroin and other hard drugs, according to a private 
study that challenges the so-called gateway theory of drug abuse.

The White House's drug policy office expressed doubts about the study and 
suggested it could undermine attempts to prevent drug use among young people.

The study published in February's edition of the American Journal of Public 
Health concludes that a rise in marijuana use among young people during the 
1990s is unlikely to result in an epidemic of hard drug use in the near future.

"The drug subculture among inner city youth today encourages marijuana use 
but discourages use of hard drugs," Andrew Golub, the study's main author, 
said Wednesday. "Many of these kids witnessed the devastating effects of 
crack and heroin on their own families and neighborhoods."

The gateway theory doesn't contend there is a direct connection between 
different degrees of drug abuse, but says that those who use tobacco and 
alcohol are statistically more likely to go on to use marijuana and in turn 
are more likely to use cocaine, crack or heroin.

Golub said his research shows the theory "is not relevant to the kids who 
came before the baby boomers and those born during the 1960s, and it is 
increasingly less relevant to those who came after."

Bob Weiner, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control 
Policy, said he hadn't read the study but expressed doubts about Golub's 
conclusions, citing recent research that found young people who regularly 
use marijuana are 80 times more likely to use cocaine.

"The parents of the children who have gone onto cocaine would have more 
common sense than his findings seem to come out with," Weiner said.

For the new study, researchers analyzed data about adolescent drug use 
reported by more than 100,000 people who participated in the government's 
annual National Household Survey on Drug Abuse between 1979 and 1997.

Golub said that before 1944, alcohol and tobacco use was common among 
youths, but progressing to other drugs was virtually unheard of. That trend 
peaked for those born in the 1960s, when the likelihood of progressing to 
marijuana use by age 17 reached as high as 47 percent and moving to harder 
drugs reached 20 percent. For people born at the end of 1970s, the risk of 
marijuana use declined to 36 percent and the rate of progression to harder 
drugs fell to 6 percent.

Susan Foster, a director with the National Center on Addiction and 
Substance Abuse at Columbia University, said the research was important and 
the results may reflect the overall national decline in drug use, although 
they may not yet account for the increase of the early 1990s.

"I would certainly caution against drawing conclusions that would lead us 
to abandon any efforts to stem alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug use," she 
said. "We do know that if you can keep youth from using before they're 21, 
it vastly reduces the risk that they're going to run into problems later."
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