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Sequential Patterns of Drug Use Initiation - Can We Believe In the Gateway Theory?

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  • Bretteville-Jensen Anne L

    (SIRUS)

  • Melberg Hans O

    (University of Oslo)

  • Jones Andrew M

    (University of York)

Abstract

The gateway, or stepping stone, hypothesis is important as it has had considerable influence on drug policy and legislation in many countries. The gateway hypothesis offers one possible explanation for young people's development of serious drug problems. It simply states that the use of one drug increases the risk of starting to consume another, possibly more harmful, drug later on and that the risk increases with frequency of use (dose-response). The empirical basis for the hypothesis is the common finding that most heavy drug users have started with less dangerous drugs first and that there seems to be a "staircase" from alcohol and solvents via cannabis and tablets to amphetamine, cocaine and heroin. The core question is whether the sequential initiation pattern of drug use is best explained by the gateway hypothesis or whether the phenomenon is better understood by employing the concepts of accessibility and/or transition proneness? Based on unique data from a representative sample of 21-30 year olds in Oslo we have examined the gateway effect of both legal (alcohol) and illegal drugs (cannabis) on subsequent use of cannabis and hard drugs (amphetamine and cocaine). We are the first to use multivariate probit models to examine the hypothesis. The models take into account unobservable individual-specific effects to reduce the possibility of a spurious effect of soft drug use on the onset of hard drug use. The gateway effects are greater when we do not take account of unobserved heterogeneity, but, although substantially reduced, they remain considerable when unobserved factors are accounted for.

Suggested Citation

  • Bretteville-Jensen Anne L & Melberg Hans O & Jones Andrew M, 2008. "Sequential Patterns of Drug Use Initiation - Can We Believe In the Gateway Theory?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 1-31, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:8:y:2008:i:2:n:1
    DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.1846
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ayllón, Sara & Ferreira-Batista, Natalia N., 2018. "Unemployment, drugs and attitudes among European youth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 236-248.
    2. Yu-Wei Luke Chu, 2015. "Do Medical Marijuana Laws Increase Hard-Drug Use?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(2), pages 481-517.
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    4. Anne Line Bretteville‐Jensen & Liana Jacobi, 2011. "Climbing the drug staircase: a Bayesian analysis of the initiation of hard drug use," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(7), pages 1157-1186, November.
    5. Kelly, Elaine & Rasul, Imran, 2014. "Policing cannabis and drug related hospital admissions: Evidence from administrative records," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 89-114.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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