By Randall G. Shelden
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
Smoke a joint one day and next thing you know you are hooked on heroin or cocaine. I recall sitting in on a panel discussion on drugs at UNLV and a couple of the “experts” repeated the claim. One man in the audience who was apparently an ex-con told the audience something like “everyone I knew in prison who used heroin or cocaine also smoked pot.” My protests to the contrary fell upon deaf ears.
Part of this myth is the confusion of cause and effect. Most of the time those who argue in favor of the gateway myth look at all the people who have used heroin or cocaine and when they learn that most of them first used pot they assume therefore the use of pot led to the use of the other drugs. They forget that heroin and cocaine users are a very small group whereas pot users are a very large group (over half of all Americans have used pot compared to less than 5% who use the other two drugs). Most that use marijuana never use the other two drugs.