Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Robert L. DuPont
Note: Robert L. DuPont is the president of the Institute for Behavior 
and Health and the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Note: First OPED in a group of four under the title, "Is Marijuana a 
Gateway Drug? Does using marijuana lead to the use of more dangerous 
drugs, making it too dangerous to legalize? "


It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of heroin users
have used marijuana (and many other drugs) not only long before they
used heroin but while they are using heroin. Like nearly all people
with substance abuse problems, most heroin users initiated their drug
use early in their teens, usually beginning with alcohol and
marijuana. There is ample evidence that early initiation of drug use
primes the brain for enhanced later responses to other drugs. These
facts underscore the need for effective prevention to reduce
adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana in order to turn back
the heroin and opioid epidemic and to reduce burdens addiction in this

Marijuana use is positively correlated with alcohol use and cigarette
use, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. This
does not mean that everyone who uses marijuana will transition to
using heroin or other drugs, but it does mean that people who use
marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do
people who do not use marijuana.

People who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be
addicted to heroin.

The legalization of marijuana increases availability of the drug and
acceptability of its use. This is bad for public health and safety not
only because marijuana use increases the risk of heroin use.

A better drug policy is one that actively discourages marijuana use as
well as other recreational drug use, especially for youth. The
aggressive commercialization of marijuana that is now rampant and
still growing is particularly damaging to the public health because it
markets marijuana and an array of increasingly potent products in ever
more attractive ways that encourage marijuana use and frequent
high-dose THC use.

We are at a crossroads. Legalizing marijuana will have lasting
negative effects on future generations. The currently legal drugs,
alcohol and tobacco, are two of the leading causes of preventable
illness and death in the country. Establishing marijuana as a third
legal drug will increase the national drug abuse problem, including
expanding the opioid epidemic.
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