Not a Gateway Drug: Research says cannabis helps fight addiction

By LA Lady | May 16, 2017

Multiple studies and analyses from patient data are proving that cannabis can help fight addiction, and that its use does not lead to more dangerous drugs.

A study published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) indicated that in “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” A separate study also showed a sharp reduction in patients admitted for opioid abuse after states legalized medical marijuana. The decline in drug use wasn’t limited to opioids. Patients are spending less on prescription drugs for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders after trying medical cannabis.

As for marijuana as a “gateway drug,” the research suggests that cannabis could have the opposite effect. Researchers at the University of Montreal and the University of British Columbia witnessed patients using cannabis to cope with crack cocaine addiction. “In this longitudinal study, we observed that a period of self-reported intentional use of cannabis … was associated with subsequent periods of reduced use of crack [cocaine]” according to the report.

“Given the substantial global burden of morbidity and mortality attributable to crack cocaine use disorders alongside a lack of effective pharmacotherapies, we echo a call for rigorous experimental research on cannabinoids as a potential treatment for crack cocaine use disorders.”

Cannabis may also help recovering heroin addicts stay on track and complete their addiction treatment compared to those who don’t use cannabis.

Research is also showing that cannabis can curb addiction to legal substances. Data from a clinical trial showed that CBD helped patients smoke 40 percent fewer cigarettes compared to patients give a placebo. In another recent study, 40 percent of medical marijuana patients reported that cannabis reduced their alcohol consumption. The authors of the study admit more research is needed on the precise effect of cannabis on alcohol addiction, but they also stated, “cannabis does appear to be a potential substitute for alcohol.” People report that cannabis can help to ease the debilitating symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

The mounting evidence that cannabis poses no risk for fatal overdose and has a lower threshold for abuse compared to other legal drugs has clearly not reached politicians.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly describes cannabis as a “dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has compared marijuana to heroin and suggested that people who use cannabis are bad. If science isn’t enough to convince them, perhaps public opinion can. Some survey data suggests less than a third of Americans think of marijuana as a gateway drug. That number drops to less than one in four when surveying people 65 and younger.

LA Lady

The LA Lady covers cannabis culture from Southern California. Follow her on Twitter @the_LAlady. Email tips to

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