Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation

The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Friebel, Guido / Mendola, Mariapia / Requate, Till / Tsui, Kevin / Wichardt, Philipp / Zulehner, Christine

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2014: 0.336
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.848

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2014: 0.633
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2014: 0.606
Impact per Publication (IPP) 2014: 0.640


Sequential Patterns of Drug Use Initiation - Can We Believe In the Gateway Theory?

Anne L Bretteville-Jensen1 / Hans O Melberg2 / Andrew M Jones3


2University of Oslo,

3University of York,

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 8, Issue 2, ISSN (Online) 1935-1682, DOI: 10.2202/1935-1682.1846, January 2008

Publication History

Published Online:


The gateway, or stepping stone, hypothesis is important as it has had considerable influence on drug policy and legislation in many countries. The gateway hypothesis offers one possible explanation for young people's development of serious drug problems. It simply states that the use of one drug increases the risk of starting to consume another, possibly more harmful, drug later on and that the risk increases with frequency of use (dose-response). The empirical basis for the hypothesis is the common finding that most heavy drug users have started with less dangerous drugs first and that there seems to be a "staircase" from alcohol and solvents via cannabis and tablets to amphetamine, cocaine and heroin. The core question is whether the sequential initiation pattern of drug use is best explained by the gateway hypothesis or whether the phenomenon is better understood by employing the concepts of accessibility and/or transition proneness? Based on unique data from a representative sample of 21-30 year olds in Oslo we have examined the gateway effect of both legal (alcohol) and illegal drugs (cannabis) on subsequent use of cannabis and hard drugs (amphetamine and cocaine). We are the first to use multivariate probit models to examine the hypothesis. The models take into account unobservable individual-specific effects to reduce the possibility of a spurious effect of soft drug use on the onset of hard drug use. The gateway effects are greater when we do not take account of unobserved heterogeneity, but, although substantially reduced, they remain considerable when unobserved factors are accounted for.

Keywords: gateway hypothesis; stepping stone hypothesis; substance abuse; multivariate probit analysis; unobserved heterogeneity; amphetamine; cocaine; cannabis

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

D. Mark Anderson and Daniel I. Rees
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 2014, Volume 33, Number 1, Page 221
Anne Line Bretteville-Jensen
International Journal of Drug Policy, 2011, Volume 22, Number 5, Page 353

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.