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Pot is a gateway drug -- to nicotine

Study shows that THC makes the brain more susceptible to nicotine addiction.

By Anne Hurley Mar 25, 2013 3:58AM

Sergeant Joe Friday would feel vindicated -- sort of. The hardboiled '60s detective on "Dragnet" was no fan of marijuana, lecturing hippies smoking pot that it would lead to "heroin, cocaine, uppers, downers" -- next stop, the O.D. Express. And while studies in the decades since have mostly refuted those claims, a new study shows that using marijuana can in fact lead to a higher likelihood of addiction--to nicotine.

And interestingly, it's not what you might think--that those who smoke pot might be more likely to smoke something else, like cigarettes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that it was the exposure to the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC, that subtly changed the brains of rats so that they subsequently became more likely to become addicted to nicotine.

Which ought to give hippies everywhere pause.

In the study, some rats were given THC and others a placebo. Afterward, both groups of rats were trained to self-administer doses of nicotine by poking their noses through a specific opening in a cage. Only about half the placebo group picked up the self-administered nicotine habit, while 94 percent of the THC-exposed rats learned the technique and continued to pursue doses of nicotine.

"Although it is more common for drug abuse to progress from tobacco to cannabis, in many cases cannabis use develops before tobacco use," the NIDA authors said.

"Evidence indicates that prior cannabis use increases the likelihood of becoming dependent on tobacco."

Even when researchers made it harder for the rats to get their "hit" of nicotine, by increasing the time it took to open the cage door, THC-exposed rats still had higher levels of nicotine intake than control rats. Researchers believe that shows that THC exposure increased the "value" of the nicotine reward to the brains of the THC-exposed rats.

So what does it all mean? As marijuana laws become more relaxed, it's still smart to be educated on its short-term and long-term effects. And if pot smokers are at a higher risk of getting addicted to nicotine, that is a big health pot-hole to be aware of. When you talk to your kids about marijuana and its risks, be sure to caution them against the possibility of smoking cigarettes down the line.

As Joe Friday would say, "Just the facts, ma'am."

Mar 25, 2013 4:48AM

This study was obviously limited to certain people i know that one can smoke pot and not be influenced to smoke cigarettes at all Just another study trying to effect the changes that are occurring in this country with pot. When are people going to smarten up pot is a hell of a lot safer than alcohol


Mar 25, 2013 4:53AM
Appears to me the THC made most the rats smarter - maybe congress needs some.
Mar 25, 2013 4:45AM
Well since Smoking Tobaco isnt Illegal yet (inspite of the goverment and MSMs best efforts).  This study is just one more example of Junk Science.  Realy what was the point of researching this? oh yeah more ammo for the feds to atempt to continue their lost war on drugs.
Mar 25, 2013 4:41AM
Sorry science, you are wrong. Nicotine is the gateway drug. Believe me, I'm far more researched than you will ever be.
Mar 25, 2013 4:43AM
One has nothing to do with the other. Why do they publish crap like this?
Mar 25, 2013 4:44AM
One more moron study that is simply ignorant...
Mar 25, 2013 4:40AM
I don't know about you guys, but I'm 100% human and 0% rat.  While I guess it's something to consider, we are best off studying humans to learn about humans, especially when it comes tests that we know aren't likely to result in short term irreversible harm.
Mar 25, 2013 4:45AM
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