Digital Original: UA-Little Rock professor’s research shows access to marijuana might help combat the opioid epidemic

Digital Originals

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – New research by a local professor is helping to educate and combat long thought ideas that marijuana is a gateway drug for other more illicit substances.

Dr. Rhet Smith’s new research is helping combat long-time ideas of marijuana being a gateway drug to other illicit substances.

Dr. Rhet Smith is a professor at UA-Little Rock. His study found that by providing legal access to marijuana, it can help mitigate the wide-spread opioid epidemic affecting the state of Arkansas.

Smtih reviewed death records obtained from the Centers for Disease Control spanning from 2009 to 2015 to determine if local dispensaries have any effect on prescription-related deaths – ultimately finding none.

“This latest study found that heroin-related deaths are also experiencing a relative decline and so this sort of decrease that we are seeing would suggest that we aren’t seeing the evidence that suggested that marijuana was a gateway drug,” says Dr. Smith.

The state is all too familiar with the opioid epidemic ranking 8-th in the United States for opioid prescription rates, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

His research suggests that marijuana use is likely to precede the use of other licit and illicit substances and the development of addiction to other substances.

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