Sunday, December 24, 2006

Youths can take different routes to drug addiction

Drug policies in the United States have long been influenced by the idea of a "gateway progression" in drug use, where the use of one substance eventually leads to "harder" drugs. Marijuana is often called a "gateway drug" because many young people who use it later move on to substances such as heroin and cocaine, and the gateway progression has been considered a strong predictor for drug dependency. A new study from the University of Pittsburgh, however, suggests that teens who follow a reverse sequence -- using harder drugs without having first tried "softer" ones, such as cigarettes and alcohol -- are just as likely to develop a drug dependency. In a study of 214 boys, researchers monitored participants' use of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana over a 10-year period, until they reached the age of 22.

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