According to a new Canadian study published in Nature Medicine, women who use marijuana during pregnancy have a more than 50 percent greater chance to give birth to a child with autism versus non-users. The study also found the risk for other neurodevelopmental disorders was heightened.
“This is an extremely concerning development,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) and a former senior White House drug policy advisor. “We have long known that marijuana use during pregnancy should be discouraged for its many links to harmful health outcomes, and it was recently discovered that the marijuana industry was recommending its highly potent products to pregnant mothers in Colorado. It is time we get serious about reigning in this runaway industry, before it is too late.”
The study looked at data from over 500,000 women living in Ontario, Canada. Of those, about 3,000 reported using marijuana during pregnancy, while 2,200 reported using marijuana and no other substances. Researchers found that 2.2 percent of mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy had children with autism compared to 1.4 percent of women who did not but were of similar age, education level, and other characteristics.
Marijuana during pregnancy is on the rise. According to a recent, first-of-its-kind General Advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, past month marijuana use among pregnant women doubled between 2002 and 2017. Furthermore, marijuana use during pregnancy has been linked to lower birth weight, hyperactivity, poor cognitive function, and other long-term consequences.
Notably, nine states allow medical marijuana to be used as a “treatment” for autism, despite there being little to no tangible evidence of the drug offering benefits.
“We will be looking into this matter more and partnering with autism advocacy groups and other organizations in the coming months. The consequences for inaction are too severe,” continued Sabet.