Study finds increased cannabis use during pregnancy

Cannabis use more than doubled among pregnant women in the United States during the period 2002-2017, according to data collected from 467,100 women aged 12-44 who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). After adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, and family income, past-month cannabis use, daily/near cannabis use, and number of days of cannabis use all increased among pregnant women. Cannabis use was more common during the first trimester than during the second and third. In addition, cannabis use for medical purposes was relatively rare, but just as frequent among pregnant as non-pregnant women.

Between 2002-2003 and 2016-2017, past-month cannabis use increased from 3.4% to 7.0% among pregnant women overall and from 5.7% to 12.1% during the first trimester. Daily/near daily cannabis use in the past month increased from 0.9% to 3.4% among pregnant women overall, and from 1.8% to 5.3% during the first trimester; from 0.6% to 2.5% during the second trimester; and from 0.5% to 2.5% during the third trimester.Cannabis use during pregnancy has been associated with effects on fetal growth, including low birth weight and length, and these outcomes may be more likely among women who consume marijuana frequently during pregnancy, especially in the first and second trimesters. This study emphasizes the need to screen and intervene for cannabis use among all pregnant women and underscores the need for additional research to assess fetal outcomes related to prenatal cannabis exposure.

Full story at drugabuse.gov

Growing up high: Neurobiological consequences of adolescent cannabis use

About one in five Canadian adolescents uses cannabis (19% of Canadians aged 15-19), and its recent legalization across the country warrants investigation into the consequence of this use on the developing brain. Adolescence is associated with the maturation of cognitive functions, such as working memory, decision-making, and impulsivity control. This is a highly vulnerable period for the development of the brain as it represents a critical period wherein regulatory connection between higher-order regions of the cortex and emotional processing circuits deeper inside the brain are established. It is a period of strong remodeling, making adolescents highly vulnerable to drug-related developmental disturbances. Research presented by Canadian neuroscientists Patricia Conrod, Steven Laviolette, Iris Balodis and Jibran Khokhar at the 2019 Canadian Neuroscience Meeting in Toronto on May 25 featured recent discoveries on the effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain.

Dr. Patricia Conrod, at Université de Montréal, studied the year-to-year changes in alcohol and cannabis use and cognitive function in a sample of adolescents consisting of 5% of all students entering high school in 2012 and 2013 in the Greater Montreal region (a total of 3,826 7th grade students). Students were assessed annually for 4 years on alcohol and cannabis use, and their cognitive function was evaluated using computarized cognitive tests. The researchers found substance use to be linked to low cognitive functioning, a finding that could be indicative of an underlying common vulnerability. Cannabis use was linked to impairments in working memory and inhibitory control, which is required for self-control. Cannabis use was also linked to deficits in memory recall and perceptual reasoning. Alcohol use was not linked to impairments in these cognitive functions, suggesting cannabis could have more long-term effects than alcohol.

Co-use of cannabis and tobacco linked to poorer functioning among young adults

More than a third of young adults report using both cannabis and tobacco or nicotine products, providing a unique challenge to public health officials as cannabis is legalized in more jurisdictions, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Studying a group of young adults from California, researchers examined the many different ways that cannabis and tobacco or nicotine products are used together—a byproduct of the introduction of new vaping devices and other delivery methods.

Among those surveyed, young adults who used cannabis and tobacco or nicotine together in some way (either using one right after the other or by mixing the products together) tended to consume more marijuana and tobacco or nicotine products, and report poorer functioning and more problematic behaviors compared to those who used did not use both products together. The study is published online by the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Marijuana for morning sickness? It’s not great for baby’s brain

With a growing number of states legalizing recreational or medical marijuana, more women are using the drug during pregnancy, in part due to its reported ability to relieve morning sickness. A new study, conducted in rats, sheds light on how cannabis exposure affects the brain of a developing fetus.

Previous research has shown children born to mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy are more likely to develop behavioral problems as well as learning and memory impairments. The new research offers further confirmation on those findings and pinpoints how the drug alters the intricate connections in nerves in the hippocampus, the brain’s center for learning and memory. Understanding exactly how marijuana affects these brain connections could one day lead to interventions to reduce the damage, researchers say.

“The findings from this study will serve as an excellent premise for future interventions to restore memory in children exposed to cannabis during pregnancy, and for the first time, identify a specific mechanism by which learning and memory impairment occurs and how this impairment can be ameliorated,” said Priyanka Das Pinky, a graduate student in the laboratory of Vishnu Suppiramaniam, PhD, acting associate dean for research and graduate programs at Auburn University.

Full story at Science Daily

Severe psychological distress and daily cannabis use: Implications for mental health?

Daily cannabis use increased significantly from 2008 to 2016 among those with and without past-month serious psychological distress (SPD) and use among those with SPD was persistently higher compared to those without SPD. Research at Columbia Mailman School and CUNY shows that in 2016, past-month daily cannabis use was about three times higher for SPD (8%) compared to those without SPD (2.7%). The findings are online in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

“Our research found that persons with SPD reported higher daily cannabis prevalence each study year,” said senior author Renee Goodwin, PhD, Department of Epidemiology. “Therefore, it is important to consider potential consequences of this increased use for those with mental health vulnerabilities.”

Data were drawn from adults age 18 and older in the 2008-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a sample of 356,413 and measured by the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale.

Full story at Science Daily