Prenatal exposure to cannabis is linked to mental health problems in adolescence

Cannabis exposure during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of mental disorders in adolescence, especially if exposure continued later in pregnancy, according to longitudinal findings from Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study.

Among more than 10,000 children, prenatal cannabis exposure (PCE) was associated with ‘persistent impairment’ of psychopathology throughout early adolescence compared with no prenatal exposure (s= 0.004), according to David Baranger, Ph.D. of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and colleagues.

These findings were primarily driven by cases where exposure to cannabis persisted even after mothers learned of pregnancy, possibly due to the timing of cannabinoid receptor neural expression, as they observed in Gamma Pediatrics.

“Increased psychopathology may lead to increased risk of mental disorders and problematic substance use as children enter peak periods of vulnerability in late adolescence,” Baranger and his team wrote.

Among the psychiatric illnesses significantly associated with PCE was rule-breaking behavior (P0.001), aggressive behavior (s= 0.007), social problems (s<0.001), Thought Problems (P0.001), attention problems (s<0.001), and behavior problems (s<0.001).

The current results are in line with Previous results from the ABCD study As of 2020, which showed that children exposed to cannabis in the womb were more likely to develop mental disorders during middle childhood.

Baranger said in press release. “We know that this is a period when a significant proportion of mental health diagnoses occur.”

“Once they reach 14 or 15 years of age, we expect to see further increases in mental health disorders or other psychiatric conditions – and increases will continue into children’s early twenties,” he added.

It is noteworthy, during covid-19 pandemicCannabis use during the early stages of pregnancy increased by 25%. previous search It has also shown that women are more likely to use cannabis during pregnancy if they are depressed, anxious or have experienced trauma.

For this study, data were collected at baseline from June 2016 to October 2018 and at two follow-up points at one year and two years for 10,631 children.

Cannabis exposure was categorized into three categories: use only before the mother knew she was pregnant (BK-PCE), continued use after the mother knew she was pregnant (BAK-PCE), and no exposure (NE).

A total of 391 participants were in the BK-PCE group, 208 were in the BAK-PCE group, and 10,032 were in the NE group. Collectively, 81% self-reported as white and 22% reported themselves as African-American. The median baseline age was 9.9 years, while the median age at 1-year follow-up was 10.9, and 12.0 at 2-year follow-up.

The authors used the Child Behavior Checklist subscales and the Child Starter Form – Child Brief Version to assess psychopathology.

Associations did not change with age (false discovery rate [FDR]- corrected s> 0.11). The results also remained significant for FDR when severely deficient covariates, such as pregnancy-related covariates such as maternal age at delivery and planned pregnancy, were included, excluding psychotic-like trials (corrected for FDR). s= 0.13). In addition, the associations remained directionally consistent and of similar magnitude in the BAK-PCE cohort after accounting for polygenic risk in the subsample of European ancestry, Baranger and colleagues said.

They acknowledged that the small sample size of offspring exposed to cannabis before birth was a limitation of the study. Other limitations included the potential under-reporting of cannabis use during pregnancy; inaccurate data on the timing, frequency and effectiveness of cannabis exposure; and a lack of data on some potentially confounding matters, such as maternal stress during pregnancy.

  • James Lopilato He is a writer for Medpage Today. It covers a variety of topics being explored in current medical science research.


A study of the cognitive development of the adolescent brain was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The study authors did not mention any conflicts of interest.