Prenatal cannabis exposure linked to mental health problems that persist into early adolescence

Prenatal exposure to cannabis after the middle of the first trimester – typically after five to six weeks of fetal development – ​​is associated with attentional, social and behavioral problems that persist as affected children progress through the onset. adolescence (11 and 12 years old). according to new research supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. These conditions may put these children at increased risk for mental health and substance use disorders in late adolescence, when young people are typically most vulnerable to these disorders and behaviors.

Published today in JAMA Pediatrics, this study analyzed data from the ongoing Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, the largest long-term study of brain development and brain health in children and adolescents in the United States. United States, which is supported by NIDA and nine other NIH institutes, centers and offices. The study was conducted by scientists from Washington University in St. Louis.

These findings add to a growing body of research on the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy. A previous analysis using baseline data from the ABCD study found an association between prenatal cannabis exposure and behavioral problems in these 9- to 10-year-old children. Preclinical studies have shown that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, can cross the placenta and potentially affect brain development.

Cannabis use among pregnant women increased from 3% in 2002 to 7% in 2017. In 2018, 4.7% of pregnant women reported using cannabis and 5.4% in 2019, according to the National Survey on drug use and health. The results of this new analysis urge further caution against cannabis use during pregnancy, say the authors.

The ABCD study follows nearly 12,000 young people as they become young adults. Investigators routinely measure participants’ brain structure and activity using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and collect psychological, environmental and cognitive information, as well as biological samples. The ABCD study seeks to understand the factors that influence brain, cognitive and social-emotional development, with the ultimate goal of providing actionable insights to help educators, healthcare professionals and policy makers improve the lives of all. children, today and for generations to come. .

The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study and the ABCD Study are trademarks and service marks of the US Department of Health and Human Services, respectively.


National Institutes of Health

Journal reference:

Baranger, AAD, et al. (2022) Association of mental health burden with prenatal cannabis exposure from childhood to early adolescence. JAMA Pediatrics.

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