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Patterns of Drug Escalation Among Philadelphia Arrestees: An Assessment of the Gateway Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 29 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 1999 Pages: 107-120
Date Published
December 1996
14 pages

This article assesses the "Gateway Theory" of drug use escalation patterns.


Sophisticated analyses have repeatedly demonstrated that "gateway" substances, such as alcohol and tobacco, play early roles in a drug-using pathway. Adolescents are unlikely to use marijuana without first using alcohol and tobacco, and will not use more serious drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, without first using marijuana. This analysis estimated non-recursive path models on a population of 1,252 adult Philadelphia arrestees surveyed through the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program. Analyses confirmed patterns of drug escalation among arrestees with "soft," "alternative" and "hard" central nervous system (CNS) modifying drugs. Marijuana was the key escalation drug. While alcohol did not always have a direct predictable effect on subsequent drug use, marijuana and alternative CNS drugs (e.g., amphetamines and barbiturates) mediate the age of onset of alcohol use, before leading to the use of hard CNS drugs. Tables, figures, references

Date Published: December 1, 1996