Marijuana and Later Opioid Use – FACT or CRAP Part 6

Is the following statement FACT or CRAP?

6. Marijuana doesn’t increase your odds you’ll use other drugs.

Answer: CRAP

Adolescent marijuana users are 2.5 times more likely to abuse prescription opioids. Prior use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana and subsequent abuse of prescription opioids in young adults

America’s going through a bad patch—and I’m not just referring to the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects. Since the mid-2000s, our nation has also been suffering through an opioid epidemic. Opioids are drugs chemically related to opium: morphine, oxycodone, methamphetamines, heroin, fentanyl, codeine, hydrocodone, and more, and now so much is laced with fentanyl. Some products are illegal; some aren’t. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the 12-month period ending in June 2020, 62,500 Americans died from just opioid overdoses. In 2019, 50,000 used heroin for the first time; 10.1 million misused opioid prescriptions; 2 million used meth; and 1.6 million had an opioid use disorder.

Marijuana is clearly a gateway drug for opioid abuse, since many prescription opioid abusers start as marijuana users. Heroin users don’t just start shooting heroin—they start with marijuana. A 2013 study of prior use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana in adolescent opioid users showed that 12% of the 18-25 year-olds in the study (6,496 individuals) illegally used prescription opioids. Those who had used marijuana as adolescents were 2.5 times more likely to abuse prescription opioids than those who had never used marijuana. Among boys in the study, all prior substance use increased the likelihood of prescription opioid use—but for girls, only marijuana was a contributing factor. But in another more recent study, the 2019 Youth Risk Behavioral Study by the Centers for Disease Control, HAVING EVER USED marijuana was the TOP co-occurring substance use behavior for high school teens who have abused opioids in the past 30 days, even OVER ALCOHOL use in the past 30 days. In other words, lifetime marijuana use is the #1 predictor of whether a teen will abuse opioids. Marijuana is now the #1 gateway drug.

If that’s not the very definition of a gateway substance, I don’t know what is. So don’t feel relieved if you find out your kids are “only” using marijuana. Nip it in the bud, or they’ll be much more likely to become addicted to something even deadlier when the marijuana doesn’t give them the same high it used to.

See more FACT or CRAP statements

Read the February 1, 2022 Johnny’s Ambassadors Newsletter

One Reply to “Marijuana and Later Opioid Use – FACT or CRAP Part 6”

  1. Excellent article and, as always, for providing up-to-date, informed science-based research.

    Thank you for your diligence on behalf of sparing others the pain of losing a beloved child, other family member or friend.

    Kathleen Lippitt, MPH
    Coastal Communities Drug Free Coalition

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