Pregnant cannabis lovers may want to take pause before hitting the herb. A new study out Wednesday has drawn a link between smoking during pregnancy and psychosis in their pre-teen children. Don’t fret yet, however; the study forms no causal conclusions and is based on an extremely small sample.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, found that among the 4,361 studied, the 201 children prenatally exposed to cannabis were slightly more prone to psychosis. This risk, however, was comparable to the risk posed to children prenatally exposed to tobacco. The research team, from Washington University in St. Louis, saw this correlation among only the children who were exposed after their mothers’ knew they were pregnant. Cannabis use before the mother was aware she was pregnant didn’t show the same results.
The scientists gathered this data from surveys administered to children between the ages of 8 and 11 who are participating in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, otherwise known as the ABCD study, which is the “largest long-term study of brain development and child health” in the U.S., per its website. The study stretches across the country and is following these kids to learn about what affects their development.
The team from Washington University pulled data from this study to learn more about how cannabis may affect the development of children. They did control for education levels, prenatal alcohol use, and child substance use. Still, the study’s tiny sample size, any underreporting from moms, and lack of data on their cannabis use and potency prevent the study from being conclusive.
“Our research is correlational and as such cannot draw causal conclusions,” said co-author Allison Moreau, a graduate student in psychology at Washington University, in a press release.
It does, however, shed new light on the possible role cannabis may play in children health. Brains do develop in-utero, right? Well, so does its endocannabinoid system that allows humans to feel the blissful effects of cannabis. The researchers hypothesize there may be a developmental window where exposure to cannabis can increase psychosis risk. But that’s a big maybe. More studies need to happen before knowing for sure.
“One possible explanation for the finding of increased psychosis risk for marijuana use following, but not before, knowledge of pregnancy is that the endocannabinoid receptor system may not be in place during the early weeks of pregnancy,” said senior author Ryan Bogdan, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, in a press release. “Prenatal cannabis exposure may be associated with later psychosis proneness in offspring only when there is sufficient fetal endocannabinoid type 1 receptor expression, which may not occur until after many mothers learn they are pregnant.”
Regardless, these findings are relevant: A 2018 study found that pregnant mothers are smoking more weed and less tobacco. By now, science has proven smoking tobacco to be dangerous, but the verdict’s still out on pot. This study, however, definitely paints an unpromising picture for any stoners hoping to start a family and maintain their habits. It comes just a couple of weeks after a separate study drew a link between daily high-potency cannabis use and psychosis in users.
Nobody wants to lose their minds over some pot, but the science is still questionable. In the meantime, pregnant women should be aware of the potential risk.