Daily cannabis use could delay at-risk youth from moving to higher risk drug use: study

published on March 29, 2018 by Mike Hager in The Globe and Mail

Consuming cannabis every day could delay at-risk youth from moving on to injecting more dangerous drugs, according to a new study that casts doubt upon the age-old assumption that marijuana acts as a gateway for teens to try other more harmful substances.

The research, from scientists at the BC Centre on Substance Use, also adds to other work that has suggested marijuana could be used as a substitute for people addicted to opioids

Researchers repeatedly interviewed 481 homeless young people in Vancouver’s downtown core who had never injected any drugs and found – over a decade of tracking this at-risk cohort – that daily cannabis use was associated with a 34 per cent decrease in the rate people started injecting drugs.

“One common perception about cannabis is that it’s a so-called gateway drug to other, higher risk drug use. However, our study found the opposite,” said M. J. Milloy, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the centre and co-author of the study led by Hudson Reddon.

“For them, cannabis was a strategy that they used to try and manage their drug use – to try and ‘detox’ from harder opioids or stimulants.”

The research, drawn from the centre’s ongoing “At-Risk Youth Study” and published in the March issue of the Drug and Alcohol Review, involved people aged 14 to 26 who couch surfed or slept on the streets in and around Vancouver’s Granville Street and were interviewed over a median period of two years.

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