Study Shows That Kids Exposed to Cannabis in the Womb Face Health Problems
Over the years, cannabis has slowly inched its way into mainstream society. And while no medical expert would tell you that cannabis is completely harmless, it is generally considered safe for adults to consume.
However, this is not the case for children and adolescents. We’ve known for quite some time that cannabis affects brain development and given that the brain doesn’t stop developing until well into your mid-20s, cannabis consumption can be quite damaging in children and adolescents. We’re now learning that even children who are exposed to cannabis in the womb are prone to numerous health problems later in life.
What Research Says About Consuming Cannabis While Pregnant
Women who are pregnant have long been advised to avoid many prescription drugs and all recreational drugs, including alcohol and cannabis. However, the exact risk factors associated with prenatal cannabis consumption are still not fully understood.
To better explain the risks of consuming cannabis while pregnant, researchers from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences’ BRAIN Lab performed an ongoing study of 12,000 children, including a group of children who were exposed to cannabis in the womb and a control group of children who were not. The first phase of the study examined data from the children when they were aged 9-10 years old, and a second phase of the study was conducted when the children were 11-12 years old. Researchers stated that this second phase of the study was important since the transition from childhood to adolescence that begins around the age of 12 is when a large proportion of mental health diagnoses occur.
In both phases of the study, it was found that children who were exposed to cannabis in the womb faced a higher risk of numerous health problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, lower birth weight, sleep problems, and reduced cognitive performance. In cases where the mother continued to consume cannabis after discovering that she was pregnant, these risks were even more heightened.
Other Risks of Adolescent Cannabis Consumption
The health problems noted by the BRAIN Lab study were all risk factors associated with being exposed to cannabis in the womb. However, there are also numerous risk factors associated with childhood and adolescent cannabis consumption as well. Consuming cannabis before the age of 21 puts you at an increased risk for health problems such as:
- Difficulty thinking and problem-solving
- Problems with memory and learning
- Reduced coordination
- Difficulty maintaining attention
- Problems with school and social life
- Impaired driving
- Potential for addiction
Is Cannabis Safe for Adults?
Children who are exposed to cannabis in the womb or consume cannabis while their brains are still developing face numerous risks, but what about adults who are neither pregnant nor still developing? While cannabis isn’t nearly as damaging to adults as it is to children and adolescents, there are still a few health risks associated with cannabis consumption regardless of your age. For one, smoking cannabis can lead to lung problems such as a lingering cough and frequent lung infections. Cannabis is also thought to mildly increase blood pressure and heart rate, meaning that people with high blood pressure should avoid heavy cannabis use.
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