Humboldt Journal of Social Relations


Marijuana is often referred to as a gateway drug due to its placement in the stage-like progression of drug use (Kandel, 2002; Zimmer & Morgan, 1997). This study examines the gateway drug concept from an insiders’ perspective. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 51 current and former users of marijuana. Data were collected between 2000 and 2002. Data on drug histories and perceptions about marijuana as a gateway drug were analyzed. While 80.3% (n = 41) of participants initiated their drug use experiences with alcohol or tobacco, one-third (n = 15) used an illicit drug other than marijuana prior to initiating marijuana. The adults in this study varied with regard to their perceptions about whether or not they thought marijuana was a gateway drug. Forty-five percent (n = 23) expressed viewpoints characterized as mixed or conflicting, 35% (n =18) did not support the idea that marijuana was a gateway drug, and 19.6% (n = 10) strongly supported the notion.

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