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NIDA Director Urges Lawmakers to Resist Legalizing Marijuana


Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), urged lawmakers this week to resist legalizing marijuana. At a House subpanel hearing, she said marijuana can act as a gateway drug.

Speaking before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations subpanel, Volkow said studies show changes that occur in brain chemistry after people use marijuana, alcohol or tobacco can prime them for harder drugs, The Hill reports.

She told the House panel that many people think marijuana is harmless because they have heard about its potential medicinal benefits, but that more research is needed.

In a message on the NIDA website last year, Volkow wrote, “Regular marijuana use in adolescence is part of a cluster of behaviors that can produce enduring detrimental effects and alter the trajectory of a young person’s life—thwarting his or her potential. Beyond potentially lowering IQ, teen marijuana use is linked to school dropouts, other drug use, mental health problems, etc. Given the current number of regular marijuana users (about 1 in 15 high school seniors) and the possibility of this number increasing with marijuana legalization, we cannot afford to divert our focus from the central point: Regular marijuana use stands to jeopardize a young person’s chances of success—in school and in life.”

5 Responses to this article

  1. Ken Wolski / May 1, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Even the DEA no longer believes in the Gateway Myth:
    Department of Justice
    Drug Enforcement Administration
    Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 131 / Friday, July 8, 2011 / Page 40556

    “Marijuana as a ‘‘Gateway Drug’’
    The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported
    that the widely held belief that marijuana is
    a ‘‘gateway drug,’’ leading to subsequent
    abuse of other illicit drugs, lacks conclusive evidence (Institute of Medicine, 1999)…Sources do not support a direct causal relationship between regular marijuana and other illicit drug use. In general, such studies are selective in recruiting individuals who, in addition to having extensive histories of marijuana use, are influenced by myriad social, biological, and economic factors that contribute to extensive drug abuse (Hall and Lynskey, 2005)… According to Golub & Johnson (2001), the
    rate of progression to hard drug use by youth
    born in the 1970’s…is significantly decreased, although overall marijuana use among youth appears to be increasing.
    Nace et al. (1975) reported that
    even in the Vietnam-era soldiers who
    extensively abused marijuana and heroin,
    there was a lack of correlation of a causal
    relationship demonstrating marijuana use
    leading to heroin addiction.”

  2. Bill Crane / May 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    The “gateway drug” concept has been debunked a number of times. A reason that some move from marijuana to more dangerous drugs is about access – illicit marijuana is distributed and sold by the same people who distribute and sell these “harder” drugs.

  3. Skip Sviokla MD ABAM / May 1, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Yes, Yes, Yes.
    Dr.Volkow is right.
    Skip Sviokla MD ABAM
    author “From Harvard to Hell …and back”

  4. Earl / April 30, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    “Regular marijuana use in adolescence is part of a cluster of behaviors that can produce enduring detrimental effects and alter the trajectory of a young person’s life…”

    Where, exactly, was legalization of recreational marijuana being proposed for adolescents?

    Further, Dr. Volkow has not presented one iota of evidence here that legalization for adults in an area will subsequently increase marijuana use among teens.

  5. Grainne Kenny / April 30, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Dr Volkow is correct in her summation of the dangers of marijuana. We in Europe are watching in horror at the consequences of President Obama’s disasterous decision to go against the advise of such experts in Colorado and elsewhere. As a therapist and educator of over thirty years I can give witness to the mental and addictive suffering of both the user and the family. The UN Conventions on narcotics have been breached by the Obama administration and the President of the INCB has reminded the US of this. My hope for the good American people is that experts such as Nora Volkow, Monte Stiles, SAM, CALM and others will eventually turn the tide against the use of this very dangerous narcotic. Let us also pray that the Obama Administration will cover the costs of treatment of those addicted. It would be interesting to monitor traffic accidents also in those States.

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