Scientists Link Marijuana Legalization with Decreased Intake of Alcohol, Painkillers, and Cigarettes

For a long time, people have believed that the use of marijuana by individuals results in an increased desire of that person to crave alcohol, painkillers, and cigarettes. Although this ‘gateway drug effect’ as it is called is still deeply rooted in people’s thoughts, scientists have discovered that this theory is false and should be dropped.

USA Cannabis Laws

US Cannabis Laws

Read Also: Those Who Start Smoking Cannabis before the Age of 16 Twice as Likely to Experience Unemployment in Adulthood

The team of researchers at the University of Washington, in collaboration with another researcher at Multnomah County Health Department and Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, have discovered that when a state legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, the use of alcohol and abuse of pain medications and smoking of cigarettes by young people goes down. They published their findings in the Journal of Adolescent Health. These findings were based on survey data of adolescents residing in Washington State after the state legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012.

How was the survey carried out?

The survey involved the analysis of data collected from several statewide surveys conducted from 2014 to 2019. The surveys were carried out on two groups of young people. In total, there were about 12,500 respondents. The first group was adolescents between 18 and 20, while the second group was young adults between the ages of 21 and 25. They also considered the fact that legalization of marijuana use in  Washington State only applies to those above 21 years. The drinking age in Washington is also 21 years.

Read Also: New Therapeutic Target to Reverse Asocial Behavior in Cannabis Users Found by INSERM Researchers

What were the findings?

The researchers discovered that the consumption of alcohol by respondents in the previous month before the survey was on average, less after the State legalized marijuana. There was also a decreased abuse of painkillers and use of products containing nicotine except for e-cigarettes which were surprisingly increased in individuals residing in Washington State. They theorized that the anomaly was due to their novelty and increased use nationwide and not because of the legalization of marijuana.

Clinical significance

Most experts consider alcohol the world’s most dangerous drug. This consideration is based upon the threats alcohol poses to the drinker’s health and the well-being of people around them. According to the journal of hepatology, alcohol-associated liver cirrhosis was responsible for no less than 493,300 deaths worldwide in 2019. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also recorded 85,688 alcohol-related deaths in the United States in the same year. Alcohol consumption has also been implicated in several other diseases such as heart and renal failure. A reduction in alcohol consumption could drastically reduce these statistics and create a better living. Scientists postulate that this reduction in alcohol intake, painkiller abuse, and cigarette smoking can be achieved by the legalization of marijuana.

Read Also: Smoking Marijuana Is Bad for the Heart According to the American Heart Association


For a long time, marijuana has gained a bad reputation among the public as a gateway drug which caused the youth to crave other types of drugs. However, this drug plays a huge role in fighting drug abuse and has, in fact, seems to have been saving lives.


Trends in Alcohol, Cigarette, E-Cigarette, and Nonprescribed Pain Reliever Use Among Young Adults in Washington State After Legalization of Nonmedical Cannabis

Global burden of alcoholic liver diseases – Journal of Hepatology (



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