Article by Ricardo Oliveira Lift News
A recent report in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse concludes that cannabis use by women during pregnancy does not influence the expression of dopamine receptor DRD4 in infants.
It is rather surprising to find a study covering such a specific question, even more so one that fails to find anything special. What can we learn from this?
Dr. Joanne Ryan, working at Murdoch Childrens’ Research Institute, from the University of Melbourne, informs us that drug use during pregnancy is an unfortunately common phenomenon, shared by up to 5% of the pregnant population (other estimates point to up to 12%). Unsurprisingly, cannabis use ranks first.
Usually consumption is limited to the first trimester when women do not yet know that they are pregnant. However, this can be enough to put the baby at risk. The first studies about the effects of maternal cannabis use in offspring development were compiled in a meta-analysis published last year. Twenty-four studies indicate that exposure to cannabis is associated with a higher risk of anemia, low birth weight and need for intensive care.
Subsequent studies confirmed these findings and uncovered other longer lasting ones. The list of deficits during childhood covers verbal reasoning, short-term memory, attention and aggressive behavior. Heavy cannabis use during the first trimester of pregnancy is also linked to worse reading, spelling, mathematical and listening comprehension by age ten.
The culprit is most likely THC. The psychoactive compound of cannabis can easily cross the placenta and interfere with the infant’s endocannabinoid system. The fact that this system is involved in countless neurodevelopmental processes (see a lift review here), easily explains the diversity of side effects visible later on.