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Study: The ‘gateway drug’ is alcohol, not marijuana

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A study in the August edition of The Journal of School Health finds that the generations old theory of a “gateway drug” effect is in fact accurate for some drug users, but shifts the blame for those addicts’ escalating substance abuse away from marijuana and onto the most pervasive and socially accepted drug in American life: alcohol.

Using a nationally representative sample from the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, the study blasts holes in drug war orthodoxy wide enough to drive a truck through, definitively proving that marijuana use is not the primary indicator of whether a person will move on to more dangerous substances.

“By delaying the onset of alcohol initiation, rates of both licit substance abuse like tobacco and illicit substance use like marijuana and other drugs will be positively affected, and they’ll hopefully go down,” study co-author Adam E. Barry, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Health Education & Behavior, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview.

While Barry’s study shows evidence that substance abuse behaviors can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy by examining a subject’s drug history, he believes that the persistent and misguided notion of marijuana as the primary gateway to more harmful substances went awry because its creators — who called it the “Stepping Stone Hypothesis” in the “Reefer Madness” era of the 1930s — fundamentally misread the data and failed to conduct an adequate follow-up.

“Some of these earlier iterations needed to be fleshed out,” Barry said. “That’s why we wanted to study this. The latest form of the gateway theory is that it begins with [marijuana] and moves on finally to what laypeople often call ‘harder drugs.’ As you can see from the findings of our study, it confirmed this gateway hypothesis, but it follows progression from licit substances, specifically alcohol, and moves on to illicit substances.”

“So, basically, if we know what someone says with regards to their alcohol use, then we should be able to predict what they respond to with other [drugs],” he explained. “Another way to say it is, if we know someone has done [the least prevalent drug] heroin, then we can assume they have tried all the others.”

And while that standardized progression certainly doesn’t fit every single drug user, the study took that into account too. “There were a low enough number of errors that you are able to accurately predict [future substance abuse behavior]… with about 92 percent accuracy,” Barry said.

By comparing substance abuse rates between drinkers and non-drinkers, they ultimately found that seniors in high school who had consumed alcohol at least once in their lives “were 13 times more likely to use cigarettes, 16 times more likely to use marijuana and other narcotics, and 13 times more likely to use cocaine.”

Barry also noted that the rates of tobacco and marijuana use among all 12th grade high school students were virtually the same, confirming a report the Centers for Disease Control published in June, and an analysis Raw Story published in May.

The study should give pause to anyone involved in youth drug awareness programs, as its findings suggest that making science-based alcohol education a top priority could actually turn the tide of the drug war — but only if lawmakers and leading educators decide to use that same science as a foundation for public policy and school curriculum.

“I think [these results] have to do with level of access children have to alcohol, and that alcohol is viewed as less harmful than some of these other substances,” Barry added.

That social misconception, largely driven by the sheer popularity of alcohol and the profits it generates for private industry, is diametrically opposed to the most current science available on drug harms. A study published in 2010 in the medical journal Lancet ranked alcohol as the most harmful drug of all, above heroin, crack, meth, cocaine and tobacco. Even more striking: The Lancet study found that harms to others near the user were more than double those of the second most harmful drug, heroin.

In its last Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the CDC found (PDF) that about 71 percent of American students have had at least one alcoholic beverage in their lifetime, and almost 39 percent reported having at least one drink within the last 30 days.

“This is a time of budget tightening,” Barry concluded. “Many social services are being cut. If you take [our findings] and apply them to a school health setting, we believe that you are going to get the best bang for your buck by focusing on alcohol.”
——

Updated from a prior version to add CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey and clarify that the study’s confirmed ‘gateway drug’ effect only pertains to students who reported abusing substances other than alcohol.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Why Mike Pompeo smirked when asked if North Korea executed negotiators

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“Suffer me that I may speak, and after I have spoken, mock on.”
The Book of Job, 21:3

No wonder Mike Pompeo awkwardly laughed or, as it was described by some observers, “smirked,” when asked about the reports of the execution of four of the people with whom Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo had been negotiating a few shorts months ago. Their roles might have been reversed.

The smirk made its appearance when Mr. Pompeo was being interviewed on a Sunday news show, and was asked for his reaction to reports that life had not gone well for four of the people he had gotten to know during the two sessions North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump had conducted over the preceding 12 months.

The first session had been a phenomenal success and the second, although cut short, did not extinguish the flame of love that warmed Mr. Trumps’ heart whenever he thought of Mr. Kim.

After the first meeting in Singapore in June 2018, Mr. Trump said at a news conference that he and Mr. Kim had “developed a very special bond. People are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy… I think our whole relationship with North Korea and the Korean Peninsula is going to be a very much different situation than it has in the past.” Describing Mr. Kim, Mr. Trump said he was “a very talented man.”

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018 and making reference to the historic meeting, Mr. Trump said in the manner of a child explaining the child’s affection for a person of whom the child’s parents disapprove: “He likes me, I like him. We get along. He wrote me two of the most beautiful letters. When I showed one of the letters—just one—to [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe, he said: ‘This is actually a groundbreaking letter.’”

Prior to the February 2019 meeting in Singapore, Mr. Trump said of his relationship with Mr. Kim: “It’s a very interesting thing to say, but I’ve developed a very, very good relationship. We’ll see what that means. But he’s never had a relationship with anybody from this country and hasn’t had lots of relationships anywhere.”

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s ardor, the February 2019 summit was cut short by Mr. Trump because he and Mr. Kim could not come to an agreement on the United States lifting economic sanctions and on North Korea cutting back its nuclear arsenal. Mr. Trump explained that “I’d much rather do it [a deal] right than do it fast.”

Mr. Pompeo, the secretary of state who accompanied Mr. Trump on the trip, commented on the early termination of the summit, saying, “We are certainly closer today [to an agreement] than we were 36 hours ago, and we were closer then, than we were a month or two before that.”

Success in negotiations with North Korea is a bit like beauty—it is in the eye of the beholder. What unconfirmed reports say happened in North Korea following the second meeting suggests that Mr. Kim was not quite as pleased with its results as Mr. Pompeo had been. If reports are accurate, Mr. Kim attributed the failure of the talks to four of his representatives and to make sure such an embarrassing failure would not happen again, the negotiators were lined up in front of a firing squad and executed.

During an interview on an ABC News program, Mr. Pompeo was asked about the reported execution and in response, he simply smiled or, as some described it, smirked, while declining to add anything to the reports but saying, “It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations, my counterpart will be someone else.” Here is why Mr. Pompeo smirked.

He is mildly amused by the fact that those negotiators were working for a man whose retributive actions towards his negotiators was so violent. Mr. Pompeo knows that those negotiators work for the same kind of manipulative, corrupt, and unpredictable tyrant as he. Mr. Pompeo smirked because he knows that it was only luck of the draw that he works for Mr. Trump, who lacks the ability, if not the wish, to have those who displease him shot. If he could, he would. He can’t. Mr. Trump’s remedies for dealing with those who displease him is to utter the famous two-word phrase: “You’re fired.”

Mr. Pompeo smirked because he knows how much those who were shot would have preferred to be part of the corrupt Trump White House team rather than the corrupt North Korean entourage, and he knows how lucky he is to be working for his nut job instead of the other one.

There is in truth, little to smirk about when the person who is smirking works for Trump instead of Kim. Both men are beneath contempt.

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Trump says he’ll give Americans the ‘best healthcare ever’ — but only if Republicans win in 2020

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President Donald Trump appears to be holding a healthcare plan hostage unless Americans vote for Republicans in 2020.

In a Fox News interview Sunday with Steve Hilton, Trump said he’s developing a plan that will be far better than the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). But that bill will never become law in the next two years because he wants Republicans to be elected first.

He began by saying that the 80 million Americans who have health care through their employer are “happy” and Democrats want to take it away. As a fact-check, the “Medicare for All” plan would give free health care to people instead of their employer paying for their health insurance.

“What I want to do, Obamacare is a disaster,” Trump said. “I got rid of the individual mandate, which was the worst part of Obamacare. Frankly, except for the one gentleman who decided after campaigning for eight years to repeal and replace at 2:00 A.M., he walked out on the on the floor and went thumbs, we would have healthcare repealed and replaced, but I’m doing it a different way.”

As another fact-check, the bill Republicans put up was a repeal without a replacement. It’s unclear if McCain voted against it for that reason, but many Republicans suggest it was the major problem with the GOP proposal.

“We get rid of the individual mandate as part of the tax cuts and that’s most we are now coming up with a much better plan than Obamacare if we take the House back, keep the Senate, keep the presidency, they will have phenomenal healthcare at a fraction of the cost,” Trump pledged.

If Trump was interested in actually fixing health care, he could work with Democrats to develop a law that both parties could pass. Instead, he’s hoping to take back both chambers of Congress so he can pass the bill he wants without bipartisan agreement.

Watch the interview with Trump below:

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Conference for local officials devolves into fist-fight — and one councilman in the hospital

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Councilman Leonard Mendoza

A conference for local-government officials began with cooler heads, but it devolved into an outright brawl.

The Cerritos Community News and The Los Angeles Times reported the conference battle Sunday at the Indian Wells resort. Several attendees began throwing punches and it resulted in at least one person being knocked unconscious, witnesses reported.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the fight broke out at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa around 12:30 a.m. where seven people were involved in “an altercation and physical battery.” One person was hospitalized.

None of the people involved “were cooperative,” Deputy Mike Vasquez told The Times, noting that there were no arrests.

It’s unclear who started the fight, but it involved members of the Commerce City Council and other officials, a written statement from Mayor John Soria said.

“It was a hectic scene,” one witness said.

The Times reported that a photo was circulating among local officials showing Councilman Leonard Mendoza on the ground with blood at his feet. Another man is seen checking Mendoza’s pulse.

(Screen capture taken from Cerritos Community News)

Mayor Soria said that he learned Mendoza and colleague Ivan Altamirano were talking about something when it “became elevated.” Mayor Soria “went to the area to defuse any potential conflict,” and that’s when he saw Mendoza on the ground. Altamirano was nearby “with a facial injury.”

Altamirano was then attacked “from behind by two individuals” according to Soria.

“I want to be clear in condemning the violent behavior from the individuals who initiated these assaults,” Soria said. “Once additional information is available I intend to call on my council colleagues to take appropriate action regarding any individuals that represent the City of Commerce who were involved in the incident.”

Read the full report from the Cerritos Community News.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts