Marijuana: 62% More Pregnant Women Now Smoke Pot

Marijuana: 62% More Pregnant Women Now Smoke Pot

A new study from Columbia University says 62% more pregnant women are smoking pot than did so a decade ago - particularly younger pregnant women 18 to 25. Using marijuana as a remedy for nausea may be the driving force behind the big jump in pot smoking among pregnant women. Along with that is the fact that medical marijuana now is legal in 29 states, making it easier than ever to obtain. The problem isn't more people smoking weed. The problem is that it's more pregnant women than ever smoking it. Because when mom smokes, so does her baby. All the evidence isn't in yet, but it's pretty clear that the cannabinoids, the psychoactive ingredients in pot, interfere with fetal neurodevelopment. That is, pot apparently causes brain damage by interrupting the normal development of a whole slew of nerves and tissues throughout the baby's developing brain and body. No one knows yet how much brain and nerve damage it might be causing. But it's the same as any toxic substance that passes the placental and blood-brain barrier. It can cause mayhem in the unborn child. Although the evidence so far is mixed, studies on both humans and animals show that "prenatal marijuana exposure may be associated with poor offspring outcomes (e.g., low birth weight, impaired neurodevelopment)," the study authors reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association . "The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women and women contemplating pregnancy be screened for and discouraged from using marijuana and other substances." In an editorial accompanying the study, Nora D. Volkow, MD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said: "The endocannabinoid system is present from the beginning of central nervous system development, around day 16 of human gestation, and is increasingly thought to play a significant role in the proper formation of neural circuitry early in brain development. Substances that interfere with this system could affect fetal brain growth and structural and functional neurodevelopment." Volkow pointed out that marijuana currently is legal in 29 states, and that nausea - a frequent complaint of pregnancy - is a "medically approved indication" for its use, and that such use is being touted for nausea during pregnancy by "sources on the internet." We should add that it's not an "approved" medical use for nausea among pregnant women.

So what is the endocannabinoid system, or ECS?

The ECS is a widespread collection of cannabinoid "receptors" located in our brains and our central and peripheral nervous systems throughout our bodies. And as Volkow pointed out, it's active and developing as early 16 days after conception. So far, researchers have identified two types of cannabinoid receptors:

  • CB1, found mostly in the nervous system, connective tissues, genitals and many other glands and organs
  • CB2, found mostly in the immune system and associated structures

And many body tissues contain both the CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action or response to the onslaught of cannabinoids. In other words, these toxic cannabinoids impact pretty much the entire fetal body. When your unborn baby is exposed to marijuana, most of its tiny developing body lights up like a Christmas tree. Is this what we want to be doing to our unborn children? Volkow and colleagues said that marijuana has become the most widely used "illicit" drug during pregnancy. A final note: There's a body of research that suggests exposure to psychoactive substances like marijuana at an early age is a catalyst or "door opener" for some types of people for later dependence and addiction. If there's any truth to it, we also will have to figure in even more problems in the future caused by the soaring increase in fetal marijuana exposure. The upside to all this - and there's always an upside - is that the research now has been done. Hopefully the data will be widely disseminated to medical practitioners who, in turn, will educate their patients and discourage marijuana use while pregnant. Fortunately, medical withdrawal and detox technology has attained new levels of effectiveness.

Here at Novus, we're constantly striving to make treatment more even effective and comfortable than it already is. And the added uptick in research into substance use and abuse is pointing to a future of better treatment for all.

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