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Monday, September 12, 2022

The NIH-funded results add to the growing scientific evidence of the negative health effects of cannabis use during pregnancy


Prenatal cannabis exposure after the mid-first trimester—generally after five to six weeks of fetal development—is associated with attention, social, and behavioral problems that persist as affected children progress into early adolescence (ages 11 and 12). 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 greater risk of mental health and substance use disorders in late adolescence, when young adults are typically most vulnerable to these disorders and behaviors.

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

These findings add to a large 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 exposure to cannabis and behavioral problems in these children at 9 to 10 years of age. 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 further support caution against cannabis use during pregnancy, the authors say.

The ABCD study tracks nearly 12,000 youth as they grow into young adults. The investigators regularly measure the structure and activity of the participants’ brains using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and collect psychological, environmental and cognitive information, as well as biological samples. The ABCD study aims to understand the factors that influence brain, cognitive and social-emotional development, with the ultimate goal of providing actionable information to help educators, health 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 registered services, respectively, of the US Department of Health and Human Services.


DAA Baranger, et al. Association of mental health burden with prenatal cannabis exposure from childhood to early adolescence: Longitudinal findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. JAMA Pediatrics. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.3191


  • Nora D. Volkow, MD, director, NIDA
  • Gaya Dowling, Ph.D., ABCD Study director, NIDA

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): NIDA is a component of the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute conducts a wide variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance the science of addiction. For more information about NIDA and its programs, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):NIH, the national medical research agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the US Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the lead federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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