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Does Marijuana Lead to the Use of Other Drugs?


Updated June 10, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Does Marijuana Lead to the Use of Other Drugs?
Answer: Many young people who smoke marijuana never progress to using other drugs, but some do go on to abuse other illegal substances. Research shows that the vast majority of high school students who do use other drugs used marijuana first.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse has three theories why some marijuana smokers go on to other drugs while some do not:

  • When people begin smoking marijuana while their young brains are still developing (into their early 20s) it can change the reward system of their brains, which can make other drugs more appealing. Animal research found that early exposure to marijuana make using opiate drugs more pleasurable.

  • Those who use marijuana are more likely to be around others who use and sell other drugs, increasing the temptation to try those drugs.

  • Young people who are at high risk for becoming substance abusers may use marijuana first because it is easier to get than other drugs. The same is true for cigarettes and alcohol.

Has smoking marijuana become a problem for you?
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Back to: Marijuana FAQ for Teens


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." DrugFacts Updated January 2014

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Want to Know More?- Some FAQs about Marijuana." Marijuana: Facts for Teens Updated October 2013

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Marijuana." Research Report Series Updated July 2012

The Partnership at DrugFree.org. "Marijuana." Drug Guide. Accessed April 2014.

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