Study Shows Potential Link Between Pot Smoking and Rx Drug Abuse
The association between marijuana and other hard core drugs is nothing new. In fact, marijuana has been touted as a gateway drug for years. Now, however, researchers may have data to substantiate that claim.A study conducted by investigators at the Yale University School of Medicine examined data for more than 55,000 individuals from the results of the 2006, 2007, and 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The goal was to determine if ‘ softer ‘ drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana were linked to increased risk of prescription drug abuse.
Study author and associate professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, Lynn Fiellin says that many people still don ‘ t understand the magnitude of the prescription drug problem. Because of widespread availability, there is a huge potential for misuse. In fact, just two years ago, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that roughly five million Americans were taking prescription painkillers.
Of those profiles examined in the Yale study, over 6,400 admitted to misusing opioid painkillers. The research concluded that in men aged 18 to 25, the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana was related to higher instances of prescription drug misuse. In women, however, only marijuana was shown to elevate the risk of abuse.
Of those who admitted to prescription drug abuse, 57 percent advised that they were users of alcohol, while more than half said they had engaged in cigarette smoking in the past and over a third had dabbled in marijuana.
Another interesting finding is that men and women who engaged in pot smoking were 2.5 times as likely to move onto prescription drugs as abstainers of the same age. And, men who engaged in drinking and cigarette smoking were 25 percent as likely to later misuse opioid painkillers.
Study results were quickly dismissed by Erik Williams, director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Connecticut. While Williams describes the relationship as casual and not causal, Fiellin says the association throws up red flags that cannot be ignored.