Drexel pot study will test ‘gateway theory’ of young adult drug use

Is marijuana a gateway drug to harder substances? Credit: Metro file photo
Is marijuana a gateway drug to harder substances? Credit: Metro file photo

Researchers at Drexel University are undertaking the first large-scale NIH-funded study of marijuana use among young adults aged 18 to 26.

Led by School of Public Health associate professor Stephen Lankenau, a team will for five years follow 390 marijuana users in Los Angeles.

Half of the participants will have prescriptions for the drug and obtain it from legal dispensaries, while the remaining will be recreational smokers.

At the heart of the study is the “gateway theory,” which proposes drugs like marijuana prompt users to progress to “harder” substances.

Lankenau said that’s not necessarily the case – preliminary findings from an earlier pilot study he conducted seemed to indicate medical marijuana patients generally abused other drugs at lower rates than recreational smokers, suggesting it may not be the pot itself that can precipitate a downward spiral, but the network of dealers those who obtain it illegally must navigate.

“One hypothesis that we’re testing is for medical marijuana patients, if they have access to dispensaries and a whole range of marijuana products, whether their overall patterns of illicit drug use are lower, compared to recreational users,” Lankenau said.

“That’s kind of the idea behind the dispensary, that it can provide social support and may destigmatize marijuana use.”

Lankenau said, especially given the dearth of federal funding for marijuana studies in the past and the growing number of states who are now legalizing the stuff, it’s important to conduct research to further inform pot policies, and to do it now.

“Given the increasing number of states that have legalized marijuana, [the NIH] realizes that this is becoming a national issue,” he said.

“Unless you start now, you’re going to get behind the curve and there will be all sorts of individuals who will be using medical marijuana, but there won’t really be any kind of robust studies that will be able to indicate, ‘Is this a good policy or not?’

“And that’s really, fundamentally, what we’re interested in by looking at young adults in Los Angeles – determining whether this is a good policy, particularly for young adults.”

Study specifics

Drexel on July 1 received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund the study.

Beginning in October, administrators will begin to enroll participants by approaching young people on the street in areas of Los Angeles with a large number of dispensaries.

Participants will answer a questionnaire, then complete one follow-up interview each year for four years.

Forty patients will be chosen for more in-depth, qualitative interviews about their personal histories and experiences with drug use.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Protesters say new Met Opera is anti-Semitic

Protesters, including a former mayor and governor, gathered outside of the Metropolitan Opera on Monday afternoon to protest the opening of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Local

Brooklyn girl's death ruled a homicide

The New York City Medical Examiner has ruled the death of a Brooklyn toddler a homicide. Jeida Torres, 3, was found bruised and unresponsive Saturday…

Local

New York City continues to prepare for Ebola…

New York City continues to prepare for the possibility of Ebola. There have been numerous scares, but no confirmed cases. Representatives from about 150 unions…

Local

NYPD nabs alleged serial bank robber

  The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for multiple Manhattan bank robberies this month. Police have arrested a Brooklyn man they…

Entertainment

We the Economy: Morgan Spurlock's new crusade

If Morgan Spurlock gets his way, you won't be able to avoid We the Economy, the series of 20 shorts films curated by the "Super…

Arts

3 Parody plays lampoon your childhood, adulthood and…

Whether you loved the source material or you're going in blind, these parody plays have something for every audience member. We rate three of NYC's hottest satirical shows.

Gossip

Who has more power: Harry Styles or Amal…

Amal Clooney comes in fourth on The Evening Standard's Most Influential Londoners list.

Music

#AskPaul McCartney reveals his love of American pop…

For an Englishman, Paul McCartney's pop culture tastes would fit right in stateside. The former Beatle (@PaulMcCartney) revealed that he has a real thing for…

NFL

John Idzik: 'We did a ton of background'…

Given John Idzik spent the previous five years with the Seahawks before he joined the Jets last January, there is a comfort level for the organization.

NFL

Jets add sizzle to struggling passing game with…

The Jets’ trade for Percy Harvin may have an air of desperation on the surface, but at 1-6 this season is hanging only by a thread.

NFL

Jason Pierre-Paul: 'We've got to regroup' during bye…

“We’ve got to regroup and figure out what went wrong,” said defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. “When we come back, we want to be a great team.”

NFL

Breno Giacomini: Media blowing up Golden Tate-Percy Harvin…

According to Breno Giacomini, the fight between Golden Tate and Percy Harvin during Super Bowl week was over by the time the lineman turned around.

Education

Is a 'gap year' after high school for…

It’s a familiar script that millions of students follow each year: Graduate high school and then immediately start college. But more and more students are…

Parenting

New news about Kate Middleton's pregnancy

The Palace released a statement about Kate Middleton's pregnancy.

Parenting

Cool book for kids: 'The Princess In Black'

"The Princess In Black" will change the way girls view princesses.

Wellbeing

Gabby Bernstein: The 3 questions I always get

For the last decade, I’ve been writing self-help books and preaching the Gospel of Gabby to audiences throughout the world. And no matter what country…