According to a recent National Institutes of Health-funded study, mothers using marijuana during their teen years may have a greater likelihood of giving birth to children who will eventually abuse drugs than mothers who do not use marijuana as teenagers.
The report, published by the Journal of Psychopharmacology, was based on a study that involved exposing adolescent rats to a cannabinoid substance (which researchers say produces an effect similar to marijuana’s active ingredient, THC) over a three-day period.
After mating as adults, the male offspring of the exposed rats were compared to a control group to determine whether the animals displayed a preference for either saline or morphine.
The results of the experiment indicated that the rats with mothers that had been exposed to the cannabinoid substance were much likelier to prefer morphine than the rats whose mothers had not been briefly exposed to the same cannabinoid substances during their adolescence periods.
Researchers said that offspring of the rats exposed to the cannabinoid substance demonstrated a greater sensitivity to morphine in conditioned place preference tests, suggesting that drug use in adolescence may trigger trans-generational effects.
The report produced results similar to a study published in 2011 in Behavioural Brain Research, which suggested that adolescent rats exposed to morphine were likelier to give birth to offspring with a preference for opiates. Other research, including a 2009 Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse report, has indicated that women exposed to cannabinoid substances during pregnancy could potentially affect their children’s development, including impairing their cognitive skills and increasing their likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.
The researchers say that since both opioid and cannabinoid systems develop during adolescence, early maternal exposure to cannabinoids could result in offspring with a greater preference for the drugs.
In an article published by Science Daily, the lead author of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine report, John J. Byrnes, said that further research is necessary before a conclusive link between teen drug use and developmental effects on children birthed during the mother’s twenties can be established.
“We acknowledge that we are using rodent models, which may not fully translate to the human condition,” he said. “Nevertheless, the results suggest that maternal drug use, even prior to pregnancy, can impact future offspring.”