An employee pulls marijuana out of a large canister for...

An employee pulls marijuana out of a large canister for a customer at the LoDo Wellness Center in downtown Denver, Colorado, on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Credit: Bloomberg / Matthew Staver

Columnist William F.B. O'Reilly says that marijuana is a gateway drug to heroin ["From pot to heroin in no time at all," Opinion, May 30].

I find that rather obtuse. He says that he experimented in his teens with pot, which led to trying a variety of drugs and rehab. But he has had no experience with heroin. He isn't a psychologist or expert. He is neither a researcher nor a statistician.

For him to issue this opinion is like saying that hot weather in India is likely to influence ice cream sales in the United States. A change in ice cream sales can be attributed to almost anything. However, correlation is not causation.

Alcohol is more of a gateway drug to heroin than marijuana. Most heroin users predated their use with alcohol. However, it would be ridiculous to say that alcohol use led to heroin.

The issue is that marijuana will be legalized very shortly in New York State. It has incredible medicinal significance, helping people deal with pain from multiple sclerosis, sciatica, cancer, migraine headaches and more. This is well documented.

O'Reilly also fails to mention that those who suffer from addictive personality disorders are going to find a way to self-medicate -- as he did -- whether drugs are legal or not.

Lyle Weiser, Manorville

Editor's note: The writer is a clinical psychologist.

As a professor who teaches research, I continually face the challenge of teaching my students the skill of differentiating between relationship and causation. When two concepts are highly related, it is often because they are both being caused by a third factor.

In the case of pot and heroin, use of both of these could be initiated by other factors, such as risk-taking or thrill-seeking. When studies are done to see what percentage of people who use marijuana go on to use heroin, the percentage is minuscule. Keeping marijuana in the same category as street narcotics, which need to be obtained illegally, makes it easier for those using marijuana to be exposed to heroin.

Confused reasoning prevents educated discussion about the use of medical marijuana. While the use of opioids and narcotics -- which are synthetic chemical relatives of heroin -- is widely accepted in health care, those who suffer intractable nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, glaucoma and other serious illnesses must obtain their treatment drug illegally.

Lois Biggin Moylan, West Hempstead

Editor's note: The writer is a professor of nursing at Molloy College.


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