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Teen Pot Smoking Won't Lead to Other Drugs as Adults

Study Shows Marijuana Isn't a 'Gateway' to Other Drugs as Teens Turn Into Adults

The Fight Against Drugs

The findings suggest anti-drug efforts aimed at keeping kids in school and providing employment opportunities may have the biggest positive impact on drug use in adulthood, Van Gundy says.

Urban sociologist and drug-use researcher Lesley Reid agrees.

An associate professor of sociology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Reid's research has focused on the gateway effect of so-called club drugs like ecstasy and cocaine among heavy drug users in their 20s.

She says most of these heavy users do start with alcohol and marijuana and progress to harder drugs.

"Obviously, we don't see this age effect among these heavy users," she tells WebMD. "But in the general population most people do outgrow behaviors like drug use and other delinquent behaviors."

'Gateway' Pioneer Critical of Study

But Columbia University sociologist Denise B. Kandel, PhD, whose research early in the decade found marijuana to be a gateway drug, calls the new research highly flawed and the conclusions "ill founded."

She tells WebMD that the design of the study did not allow the researchers to properly test the hypothesis that marijuana is a gateway drug.

Kandel does not disagree with the conclusion that social position in young adulthood plays a big role in drug use during this time. But she says the researchers fail to consider the potential impact of early marijuana use on social position.

"Using marijuana as a teen can certainly have an impact on whether or not someone fails to graduate from high school or gets a job," she says. "And this increases the risk of persistent illicit drug use."

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