Marijuana vs. Alcohol: 40-Year Study Reveals Which Is The Real ‘Gateway’ Substance | Marijuana

Marijuana vs. Alcohol: 40-Year Study Reveals Which Is The Real ‘Gateway’ Substance

“Alcohol causes far more personal and social damage than any other drug. Illegal drugs comprise less than 20 percent of substance-use disorders in the U.S.” ~ William Martin, Director of the Baker Institute’s Drug Policy Program

While the habitually uninformed may point to marijuana/cannabis consumption as the gateway to addiction – an intriguing study spanning 40 years reveals that alcohol is the real felon when it comes to exposing and nurturing our addictive tendencies.

After scrutinizing both substances based on historical data gathered over four decades, astute researchers at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, in conjunction with Brian C. Bennett, disclosed their intoxicating discoveries on the dizzying topic of substance abuse.

Socially acceptable, alcohol is available on just about every street corner in America. Yet, for some convoluted reason, marijuana has been targeted as Public Enemy #1 in the war against addiction and labeled as a dangerous Gateway substance. Shining a factual floodlight on the topic, the charts produced by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy vividly demonstrate “the natural course of the use of psychoactive drugs.”

According to the Bennett charts, individuals who experiment with psychoactive substances do so for a relatively short period of time — Stopping shortly after their initial experimentation with the substance.

Explaining away the youthful experimentation with illicit drug use, researchers noted that adolescent experimentation peaks from “18 to 20.”

The numbers don’t lie: In examining the peak ages of experimental substance use from 18 to 20,  the charts provided by the Baker Institute for Public Policy clearly demonstrate that alcohol is the real Gateway to an addictive lifestyle.


Demonstrating its addictive nature, in 2014, just over 80% of U.S. adults had shown their lifetime commitment to drinking themselves “happy” (or not). Conversely, over the same time period, only 52% of the population claimed marijuana as their lifetime substance of choice.


Putting addictive personalities and the genetic predisposition to enjoy certain substances aside, it’s completely plausible that young adults who were allowed to consume alcohol at an early age are inherently more susceptible to experiment with stronger substances. Whether it’s genetics or an alcohol-fueled home life, the likely thread running through our addiction prone society is the crushing anxiety and depression caused by life in the American Fast Lane, in addition to the lack of access to adequate mental health care.

(Photo Credit Jason Tester / Flickr)

About Author

My name is Monterey Bud and I was born in Long Beach and raised on the central coast. I surf, dab, burn and write. I'm a husband, a father and a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I have been writing about marijuana strains, science, and politics for since 2012. A Big Sur cultivator from the pre-helicopter days, I'm a big fan of new strains and breaking news. I can be reached on Twitter @MontereyBud


  1. People use what is available to get a buzz. Of course alcohol is higher because it’s easier to get. I don’t know if they took that into into consideration or not. People will take what ever when ever just as long as the price is right for what ever problems they have. I’ve been using cannabis since Gilligan’s Island. I’m more responsible with it now because I’ve learned over the years it’s good for a lot of things that ail me at my age. I think THEY’VE done enough research to determine if it does help. Now they need to find out what it really does for us instead of locking us up. IT’S MY LIFE DAMMIT!

    • In my youth, like many, I went through drug and alcohol experimentation through high school (1968-!971) and then the army (1973-1975). I saw more drugs and alcohol during my time in service then any place else in my life. Alcohol was everywhere at all times making it the number one drug to go to in and out of the service. I was a heavey drinker and smoker, (cigarettes and weed) until my first child was born (1983) and I saw what alcohol was doing to me. I didn’t want to be a drunk while raising my daughter. All the while was still smoking the grass every chance I got, if I wasn’t too drunk. It took a few years to get off the alcohol and cigarettes. Had to wean myself down from brandy to beer to irish cream and coffee. Quitting cigarettes was no challenge at all. I continued to smoke cannabis during and after to this day. Pot isn’t for everybody but for me it saved my life in a way. Drinking alcohol made me aggresive and stupid. Now I’m 63 years old. My kids are in their 30’s. I couln’t ask for better adult children. They don’t smoke pot at all or drink alcohol to excess. The whole schedule one thing with pot on it as a dangerous drug like heroin is a totally political law written by American alcoholic politicians. If any one thing should be outlawed here in the states its alcohol not guns. The second should be cigarettes. I am pleased to see where marijuana status is at today as i feel like less then a criminal now. Although in my youth it was a recreational drug for me, I have since had injuries that have slowed me down. I tried pain killers but they just made me ill, and the pain continued with no relief. Weed gives me gentle relief for all my pain and allows me to get through another day. I can live with my spine injury thanks to pot. Looking forward to when it becomes 100 per cent legal in California!

  2. I like to share my story after 25 years I lost my job I’m 55 people going into my field now are in there 20s I was at top paid when trying to find new work just could not get hired after a few years I became seriously depressed crying for no reason bad mood just not a pleasant person to be around yes I turned to alcohol that was a real bad idea did a lot of bad things almost cost me my marriage after 33 years went to doctor we went over everything but the priority was my heart I did stop drinking on my own I was 350 pounds sent to a cardiologist and was placed on several drugs and everything else was put on hold I was so tired of being a nasty dad and husband I went and got a medical marijuana card they recommend Indica strains after 4 months of one time per day use at night only the majority of my symptoms went away the added bonus was I lost 100 pounds this greatly increased my health in fact the cardiologist released me back to my primary care doctor and over half of my medication was stopped my health is 85 % better my weight was better my mental health was good Marijuana I can say Saved my life my marriage and most importantly my family the medication are minimal now 2 was 9 no bad effects needless to say my Primary Doctor is impressed even she’s not authorized to prescribe medical marijuana but sees the benefits

  3. Wow, I’m so happy to Found this web sight. Thank you for writing the truth about marijuana. Maybe someday the politicians will get on board and tell the “American Public” the truth about pot vs alcohol.

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