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Boys' Drug Use May Not Match Gateway Model

Authors suggest drug availability is predictor of drug use

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A teenaged male's transition from licit drugs, such as alcohol or tobacco, to illicit drugs, such as marijuana, is more likely due to drug availability rather than the "gateway hypothesis," according to a report in the December issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Ralph Tarter, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, and colleagues followed male drug users, starting at ages 10 to 12 and up to age 22, to determine if specific factors are associated with drug use patterns. Overall, 99 subjects consumed licit drugs only, 97 transitioned from licit drugs to marijuana, and 28 used marijuana before using alcohol or tobacco.

The investigators found that 22.4 percent of marijuana users did not fit the gateway model, suggesting this pattern is not invariant in drug-using youths. Illicit to licit drug use predicted drug use disorder the same as the gateway model and no specific factors were revealed that cause either transition.

"Proneness to deviancy and drug availability in the neighborhood promote marijuana use," the authors conclude. "These findings support the common liability model of substance use behavior and substance use disorder."

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