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drug war propaganda theme 4 - gateway / use is abuse

Themes in Chemical Prohibition: Sec 4
NIDA: Themes in Chemical Prohibition, William L. White, 1979

4. The Concept of "Controlled" Usage is Destroyed and Replaced by a "Domino [aka Stepping-Stone/Gateway] Theory" of Chemical Progression, All Use Is Abuse

a 'gateway' drug

The history of prohibitionist pronouncements is replete with
This anti-drug ad illustrates the theme of the gateway. Taking illegal methamphetamines "even once" leads to smoking meth, which leads to injecting meth, and so on. ("That Guy", Montana Meth Project)
examples which propose a "domino [gateway] theory" of chemical usage. Such a theory holds that the use of a particular drug (usually the one presently targeted for prohibition) inevitably and with rare exception leads-to the use of other drugs (usually drugs already prohibited or drugs already defined as evil). For example, the publication in 1798 of Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical by Benjamin Rush includes the following comments from an anti-tobacco essay: "A desire of course is excited for strong drink, (by smoking tobacco) and these (cigarettes) when taken between meals soon lead to intemperance and drunkenness.35 The following is from a 1912 article in Century magazine:

  • The relation of tobacco, especially in the form of cigarettes, and alcohol and opium is a close one . . . Morphine is the legitimate consequence of alcohol, and alcohol is the legitimate consequence of tobacco. Cigarettes, drink, opium is the logical and regular series. 36
  • One of the most dramatic and all-inclusive examples of this "domino theory" can be seen in the following illustration from The Temperance Program (1915) of Evangelist Thos. F. Hubbard. 37

    snacking between meals leads to a drunkard's grave
    snacking between meals is a gateway to a drunkard's grave (1915)
    Teen-Age Booby Trap (Comic Book from the US Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs, circa 1970)
    marijuana gateway (c.1970) Teen-Age Booby Trap - Comic Book from the US Bureau of Narcotics & Dangerous Drugs

    The contention that alcohol abuse was the basis for morphinism was not uncommon in the late 1800's, and more recently the mystical connection between marihuana and heroin has been central to the rationale for continued prohibition of marihuana.

    All Use Is Abuse, 2008

    [ Here the idea is the political or criminal status of a drug determines whether any and all use of the drug is to be considered "abuse". For example, this idea is concisely stated by Steven Gans, MD
    "Generally, when most people talk about substance abuse, they are referring to the use of illegal drugs. Most professionals in the field of drug abuse prevention argue that any use of illegal drugs is by definition abuse. Those drugs got to be illegal in the first place because they are potentially addictive or can cause severe negative health effects; therefore, any use of illegal substances is dangerous and abusive." (What Is Substance Abuse?, Steven Gans, MD,

    So, according to the all-use-is-abuse idea, drinking a cup of coffee was abuse in the 17th century in the state of Waldeck - for the prince declared coffee to be illegal and even paid informants to denounce coffee drinkers to the authorites. (Griffith Edwards, Psychoactive substances, The Listener, 1972)

    Fortunately for us, the exact same behavior (drinking a cup of coffee) now won't subject us to imprisonment - like it did then. ]

    All Use Is Abuse

    The destruction of the concept of controlled drug usage implies that everyone who ever uses heroin will be a "dope fiend," everyone who drinks will be an alcoholic, etc. In general this strategy equates the use and abuse of drugs and implies that it is impossible to use the particular drug or drugs in question without physical, mental, and moral deterioration. Such a view holds that there are powers within the drug over which no one can exert control. The extreme absurdity of such a view seems apparent when one considers the vast majority of persons who use alcohol in this country with minimal or no dysfunctional consequences and the numbers of users of illicit drugs who do not suffer physical deterioration, who do not progress to compulsive drug usage, who do continue to work, raise children, and maintain the usually expected social responsibilities.

    The idea that there are overwhelming powers within drugs is probably nowhere better illustrated than in a statement in Marc Olden's 1973 book, Cocaine, in which he states: "It's possible to get a habit just from handling the drug."38 The continued belief in this domino theory of chemical progression and its implications for current policies is perhaps well illustrated by a 1974 survey in which 39 percent of non-marihuana users in the sample cited "marijuana use leads to harder drugs" as the primary reason for their opposition to legalization of marihuana.39

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    Bot's analysis of: "The Dangers and Consequences of Marijuana Abuse" the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Demand Reduction Section, May 2014
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