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The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a U.S. federal research institutefocused on “[advancing] science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction … to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health. ” Though it admits “the majority of people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, ‘harder’ substances,” it still describes marijuana as a gateway drug.
But U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently told a group of Kentucky high school students the role of marijuana in the national drug abuse debate has been overstated.
While discussing how heroin abuse and how individuals often develop an addiction, Lynch argued:
“[I]ndividuals [start out] with a prescription drug problem, and then because they need more and more, they turn to heroin. It isn’t so much that marijuana is the step right before using prescription drugs or opioids — it is true that if you tend to experiment with a lot of things in life, you may be inclined to experiment with drugs, as well. But it’s not like we’re seeing that marijuana as a specific gateway.”
Attorney General Lynch added that instead of trafficking rings, what “introduce[s] a person to opioids … [is] the household medicine cabinet.”
The event she attended was part of the Prescription Opioid Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, a campaign designed by the White House that includes “250 different events highlighting the importance of prevention, enforcement, and treatment.” As expected, the campaign focused on advertising the official approach to drug abuse, encouraging the public to support the Obama administration’s approach to the opioid crisis.