Remember the old “gateway drug” theory that marijuana leads to harder drugs like cocaine or meth?
Now researchers at the University of British Columbia believe the idea might actually work in reverse.
A new study touted as one of the “most comprehensive” ever suggests that drug users — particularly those addicted to opioids and alcohol — could benefit from using marijuana as a reverse “stepping stone” away from more dangerous substances.
According to UBC associate professor of psychology Zach Walsh, “Research suggests that people may be using cannabis as an exit drug to reduce use of substances that are potentially more harmful, such as opioid pain medication.”
Additionally, his international team found evidence that cannabis could be helpful in treating the symptoms of social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. But according to the study, it “might not be recommended” for psychosis or bipolar disorder.
Walsh was lead investigator on an international team — including three others at UBC, Florida State University, California’s National Centre for PTSD and Center for Innovation and Implementation — who published their findings recently in the academic journal Clinical Psychology Review.
The team surveyed every study conducted so far about cannabis use and mental health — 60 studies in total — touting their effort is one of “the most comprehensive on the topic to date,” according to a UBC release.
Although admitting the evidence available so far is still “limited,” Walsh said the study suggests that advocates of marijuana “as a tool for harm reduction and mental health have some valid points.”
The study also found that, according to evidence, “cannabis use does not appear to increase risk of harm to self or others.”