Marijuana may have a reputation as a "gateway" to other drugs, but new research shows that the reason a teenager uses marijuana in the first place is an important factor in whether that person also uses other drugs.
And it turns out that when a teen's reason for smoking pot is "to experiment," he or she is less likely to use other drugs.
Researchers analyzed survey results from more than 6,000 high school seniors in the United States who all said theyhad used marijuana in the past year. The surveys also asked students questions about whether they used alcohol, as well as drugs such as crack, heroin, powder cocaine and hallucinogens.
The researchers found that the teens who said they used marijuana to experiment were less likely to say theyhad used any other drugs, compared with teens who used marijuana for other reasons, such as out of boredom or to increase the effects of other drugs.
They also found that the students who said they used marijuana to experiment were less likely to say they had recently used "hallucinogens other than LSD and narcotics other than heroin," the researchers wrote in their study. [11 Odd Facts About Marijuana]
In contrast, the students who said they used marijuana because they were bored were more likely to say theyhad used powder cocaine, or hallucinogens other than LSD. And the teens who said they used marijuana "for insight or understanding" were also more likely to say they had used hallucinogens, excluding LSD, according to the study.
The findings are important because they show that boredom is a risk factor for using marijuana and also for using other drugs, said Joseph Palamar, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center. "Programs and education efforts, for example, can benefit from knowing that marijuana users who use because they are bored are more likely to use certain other drugs," Palamar said in a statement. "It may be feasible for prevention programs to address ways of coping with factors such as boredom in order to decrease risk."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the teens who said they used marijuana "to increase the effects of other drugs," were also more likely to use other drugs, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published online June 26 in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
The most common reason that teens gave for using marijuana was "to feel good or get high," according to the study.
The study also reported that surveys conducted in 2013 showed that nearly 1 in 2 high school seniors said they'd used pot at one point in their lives. Previous research has suggested that marijuana is less dangerous for health than narcotics like heroin,and is less likely than alcohol to lead to an overdose.