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Overview of cannabis (marijuana)

Cannabis is a psychoactive drug which is also used as a medicine to help manage patients who have chronic pain due to conditions such as bone cancers. It's main psychoactive component is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is absorbed within seconds by the body once inhaled or ingested.

THC can cause the following effects on the human body:

  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Heightened mood.
  • Increased appetite.

People experiment with cannabis in order to experience these effects, but there are side effects that can be experienced and they include the following:

  • Acute anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Auditory and/or visual hallucinations.
  • Impaired short-term memory.
  • Decreased motor skills.
  • Dry mouth and blurry vision.

Effects of cannabis on pregnancy

THC can cross the placenta and enter the unborn fetus's bloodstream. The effects of using cannabis during a pregnancy have been attempted to be studied and have yielded some important results.

It was found that there was no statistical link between cannabis use and physical birth defects in babies in the 1980's, but in a study conducted between 1997 and 2005 it was found that the incidence of brain malformations were doubled in babies whose mothers used cannabis as opposed to those who hadn't.

More conclusively, it was found that daily or weekly cannabis usage resulted in high-risk pregnancies and the babies were 2 times more likely to be admitted to neonatal ICU's compared to other babies.

There was also an increased risk of these mothers going into early labour which could result in the baby developing complications after birth.

It was also found that long term effects such as cognitive and behavioural issues were present in 3 year old children whose mothers used cannabis as compared to children whose mothers didn't use cannabis products. In another 10 year long study it was found that 4 year olds, whose mothers used cannabis on a daily basis, scored lower on memory tests although there wasn't any negative impact on overall intelligence. By 10 years of age, it was found that those children had a slightly increased risk of developing attention deficit disorders.

Shortcomings in the studies

The mentioned studies were mostly based on questionnaires filled in by the mothers so the extrapolated data could be seen as subjective findings. Although this may be the case, one can't ignore the incidence of cognitive and behavioural changes which were found in children whose mothers used cannabis on a regular basis. The best way to get objective data would be to perform studies on pregnant patients to see what the effects would be on the unborn child, but this would cross ethical boundaries and subject these patients to possible complications. 

In the end, knowing that there is the possibility of use of marijuana in pregnancy resulting in these mentioned complications, then it would be most advisable to refrain from using cannabis during such time. 

If there is absolutely no medical reason to be using cannabis, then the risks would overwhelmingly outweigh the benefits of using this drug.

One would suggest that any pregnant person currently using any cannabis products should try to stop using them for the sake of the well-being of their unborn child, and one can do so by consulting with their primary health care professional to help them.

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