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Marijuana and Behavioral Development

November 12th, 2007 · No Comments

Prenatal marijuana exposure had significant effects on the developing central nervous system (CNS) in children and adolescents according to recent research. These findings were presented in a symposium about in utero substance exposure at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 54th Annual Meeting .

Weed Woes

“For people who grew up in the 1960s, this was a big disappointment,” said Nancy L. Day, PhD, from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, referring to the marijuana study findings. “We all thought marijuana was a good drug, but it’s not,” she added.

The study looked at effects of prenatal marijuana use on cognitive and behavioral development at 10, 14, and 16 years.

The researchers found significant, relatively consistent effects from maternal marijuana exposure on the Central Nervous System (CNS) function in the offspring.

Prenatal exposure predicted higher rates of attention deficits and impulsivity at age 3, 6, and 14 years. It also was linked with poorer academic performance and higher rates of delinquency at ages 6,10, 14, and 16 years.

In 10-year-olds, prenatal exposure was linked with marginally more depressive symptoms and poor performance on memory and visual planning tests.

At age 14 years, exposure to marijuana in the womb predicted problems with sustained attention, cognitive flexibility, and response suppression. The drugs use by their mothers was a significant predictor of age of onset of marijuana use and of frequency of its use in the 14-year-olds, after researchers controlled for other variables, including the teen’s current alcohol and tobacco use and parental drug use.

Kids “Spiraling Down”

This study showed that prenatal exposure has significant and long-term effects on the developing CNS, said Dr. Day. “We know that prenatal exposure to marijuana leads to deficits in mood, aggression, cognitive development, working memory, and, as secondary results, higher rates of substance use, sexual behavior, and academic problems,” she summarized.

“I see these kids spiraling down,” she said.

This is another reason not to use street drugs such as marijuana.

Tags: Marijuana Addiction

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