Hit & Run

Coffee: The New Gateway Drug

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Another gem from CASA's new study of drug use by girls and young women:

The report reveals that caffeine is a little known risk factor. Girls and young women who drink coffee are significantly likelier than girls and young women who do not to be smokers (23.2 percent vs. 5.1 percent) and drink alcohol (69.8 percent vs. 29.5 percent).

In other words, coffee is a "gateway drug," just like tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. CASA keeps mindlessly repeating numbers like these, without pausing to reflect on what they might signify. The implication is that the pharmacological effects of Drug A somehow drive the user to try Drug B. But there are more straightforward explanations for these relative probabilities. People who like caffeine, for instance, are more apt than people who don't to like other stimulants, such as nicotine. People who shun even a mild, "transparent" drug such as caffeine are not likely to enjoy drinking.

More to the point, people who work at CASA are not likely to let common sense or intellectual honesty interfere with an attention-grabbing conclusion. You can see where this is heading: Coffee leads to cigarettes and beer, which lead to pot, which leads to cocaine and heroin. It's just a hop, skip, and a jump from sipping a cappuccino to dying in an alley with a needle in your arm. Starbucks has a lot to answer for.