According to a Canadian study published in Nature Medicine, women who use marijuana during pregnancy have a more than 50 per cent greater chance of giving birth to a child with autism compared with non-users. The study also found the risk for other neurodevelopmental disorders was heightened.
‘This is an extremely concerning development,’ said Dr Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior White House drug policy adviser. ‘We have long known that marijuana use during pregnancy should be discouraged for its many links to harmful health outcomes, and it was recently discovered that the marijuana industry was recommending its highly potent products to pregnant mothers in Colorado. It is time we get serious about reining in this runaway industry, before it is too late.’
The study looked at data from over 500,000 women living in Ontario, Canada. Of those, about 3,000 reported using marijuana during pregnancy. Researchers found that 2.2 per cent of mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy had children with autism compared with 1.4 per cent of women who did not but were of similar age, education level, and other characteristics.
Marijuana use during pregnancy is on the rise. According to a recent, first-of-its-kind General Advisory from the US Surgeon General, past month marijuana use among pregnant women doubled between 2002 and 2017. Furthermore, marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight, hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.
Notably, nine states allow medical marijuana to be used as a ‘treatment’ for autism, despite there being little to no tangible evidence of the drug offering benefits.
‘We will be looking into this matter more and partnering with autism advocacy groups and other organisations in the coming months. The consequences for inaction are too severe,’ Sabet has promised.