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
National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

National

PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.