Cannabis Teratogenicity

Cannabis sativa’s psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has not been established as a human teratogen (1), but there is a history of teratogenic effects linked to use by expectant mothers (2). The perinatal exposure is thought to interfere with neurodevelopment and affect neurobehavorial outcomes (1-2).

Although the teratogenicity of marijuana is not as catastrophic as other illicit drugs such as cocaine, it’s harm can still lead to problems such as disturbed sleep and attention deficit disorder (2-3). Worth noting is that when cocaine exposure is accompanied by marijuana, the neurological effects can be pronounced (3).

There is also indication that maternal marijuana use may increase risk of acute myeloid leukemia, however, more recent research has not been able to confirm this relationship (4).

Reference List

1. Kozer E, Koren G. Effects of prenatal exposure to marijuana. Can Fam Physician 2001;47:263-4.
2. Reece AS. Chronic toxicology of cannabis. Clin Toxicol (Phila) 2009;47:517-24.
3. Frank DA, Augustyn M, Knight WG, Pell T, Zuckerman B. Growth, development, and behavior in early childhood following prenatal cocaine exposure: a systematic review. JAMA 2001;285:1613-25.
4. Trivers KF, Mertens AC, Ross JA, Steinbuch M, Olshan AF, Robison LL. Parental marijuana use and risk of childhood acute myeloid leukaemia: a report from the Children’s Cancer Group (United States and Canada). Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2006;20:110-8.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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