Is Pot the "Gateway" to Cigarettes?
A new study suggests that marijuana use leads to nicotine addiction (at least in mice).
If the smoking habits of lab mice are any indication, smoking marijuana may raise your risk of getting hooked on cigarettes. In a study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, mice who were exposed to THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) were more likely to develop a dependency on nicotine. "Although it is more common for drug abuse to progress from tobacco to cannabis, in many cases cannabis use develops before tobacco use," researchers wrote in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. "Epidemiological evidence indicates that prior cannabis use increases the likelihood of becoming dependent on tobacco.” After exposing mice to either a placebo or THC for three days, researchers trained the creatures to self-administer nicotine by poking their noses through a hole in their cages. The mice who were exposed THC had a higher likelihood of learning to self-administer the nicotine—leading researchers to believe that these mice were addicted. Those who had been given a placebo (instead of pot) were more likely to pass on the nicotine. “These results contrast sharply with our earlier findings that prior THC exposure did not increase the likelihood of rats acquiring either heroin or cocaine self-administration, nor did it increase the reward value of these drugs,” researchers wrote. Because the study was conducted with rodents, it remains unclear whether the findings translate to people. Regardless, the researchers believe cannabis use can encourage nicotine addiction, concluding: "The findings obtained here suggest that a history of cannabis exposure might have lasting effects that increase the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine.”