Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana: Gateways to Illicit Drug Use | The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana: Gateways to Illicit Drug Use

Cigarettes, Alcohol, Marijuana: Gateways to Illicit Drug Use

Published: October 1994

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Background

This report investigated the impact of children’s use of gateway drugs—cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana—on the probability of their subsequent use of illegal drugs such as cocaine.

Methods

CASAColumbia conducted analyses of data from the 1991 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA).

Results

This report found a strong statistical relationship between adolescent use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, and use of other illegal drugs:

  • 89% of those individuals who used cocaine first used all 3 gateway substances
  • 90% of children and adults who used marijuana first smoked cigarettes or drank alcohol
  • Compared to those who had never used these gateway substances, children 12 to 17 years old who used marijuana were 85 times as likely, those who drank were 50 times as likely, and those who smoked were 19 times as likely to have used cocaine
  • Children 12 to 17 years old who used all three gateway drugs were 266 times as likely to have used cocaine as children who had never used a gateway drug

The analyses also found that the younger children were when they used gateway drugs, and the more often they used them, the more likely they were to use other illegal drugs.

Recommendations

The report recommends that the country step up efforts to prevent childhood use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, and reduce children’s access to these drugs. It also proposes recommendations regarding new directions for research.

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