The marijuana lobby gets very upset at any suggestion of marijuana being called a gateway drug. Of course, not everyone who starts using marijuana uses other drugs; some just go on to stronger versions of marijuana, such as “wax,” “dabs” or vapes. Others may not use anything stronger than the old-fashioned weed of the last century.
Yet the scientific evidence suggests it is a gateway drug that can open the doors to other addictions, including alcohol: Studies show that marijuana affects dopamine receptors and our brain’s reward system which may lead to the use of many other different drugs. In one study done by the University of Michigan Medical School, researchers found a negative correlation between the amount of marijuana consumed over time and the amount of dopamine that was released in the brain in response. Smokers will then seek other drugs in order to achieve the high they used to experience with pot.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says cannabinoids are able to decrease the reactivity of brain dopamine reward circuits over time, leaving frequent marijuana users vulnerable to other drug addiction. Additionally, THC promotes an enhanced response to other drugs in the same way that alcohol and nicotine do, which may lead to the progression of more drug addictions that may cause a toxic overdose.