Prenatal cannabis exposure increases risk of mental disorders


In a recent study, prenatal cannabis exposure was associated with greater risk of behavioral problems and mental health disorders in children.

Fetal cannabis exposure during pregnancy can lead to attention, social, and behavioral problems in children persisting into adolescence, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The effects of prenatal cannabis exposure take effect after the middle of the first trimester and can increase the risk of mental health disorders and substance use in late adolescence. This data came from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study and expands on prior knowledge on the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy.

Previous studies have associated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with negative effects of brain development. THC is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, and prenatal exposure has been shown to cause behavioral problems in children aged 9 to 10 years.

The ABCD Study is an ongoing study that uses magnetic resonance imaging to analyze brain structure and social and cognitive development, providing a further understanding of how brain development is influenced. Almost 12,000 individuals participate in the study and are tracked into young adulthood.

Cannabis use among pregnant women has increased from 3% in 2002 to 7% in 2017, according to NIDA. Investigators recommended more caution around cannabis use during pregnancy.

This article originally appeared on Contemporary Pediatrics®.


Volkow ND, Dowling G. Prenatal cannabis exposure associated with mental disorders in children that persist into early adolescence. National Institutes of Health. September 12, 2022. Accessed September 13, 2022.

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