Many times, I have heard marijuana referred to as ‘the gateway drug’, implying marijuana use leads to the use of other more dangerous drugs. What I find amusing about this is that marijuana has proved to be only slightly addictive at absolute most.
On the other hand, legal opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are highly addictive, as they are chemically similar to the illegal opioid heroin, and produce a similar high.
According to IMS in 2014 alone, 21.7 million Canadians have been prescribed these legal opioids and nearly 4,000 died. In a separate U.S. study in 2017, they found .4 per cent of children ages 12-18 use heroin while 4.3 per cent use legal opioids to get high.
The opioid crisis has become a global one, it continues to worsen year after year and this is where our ‘gateway drug’ comes into play. Marijuana has proven useful for treating a range of medical issues from depression, anxiety, seizures, chronic pain and cancer. Studies also show the lethal dose of marijuana is 40,000 times the effective dose. This means if an average marijuana user smokes one joint to get high, they would have to smoke 40,000 to die.
Marijuana may not be the answer to everyone facing medical issues. I am not claiming marijuana could put an end to this opioid crisis. I do believe that if people can disregard the negative stigma marijuana has carried, then medical marijuana is a step towards lowering the prescription of deadly legal opioids.
Grace Boyer Zutshi,