Pot Can Affect Developing Youth Brains: Not Safe for Expectant Moms

Marijuana gummies are not safe for youth and pregnant women.

Although pot is now legal in California for recreational use, it does not mean it is safe for teen or for pregnant woman.

Most women are aware that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome, which causes brain damage and growth problems. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are not reversible.

Doctors say there is no amount of alcohol is known to be safe to consume during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, those women who are aware of alcohol issues are now turning to pot, according to Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine.

According to most media, pot, including edibles, are portrayed as safe. It may be safe, but not for all people, especially for fetus and for people under the age of 25.

In Huberman’s recent podcast (“The Effects of Cannabis (Marijuana) on the Brain & Body”), he says that about 15 percent of pregnant mothers admit to cannabis use during pregnancy. Huberman Lab

Huberman is clear that pot is legal in California and in adults there are some positive uses for cannabis, that include helping those with cancer by reducing nausea and increasing appetite; for glaucoma patients there is a reduction in intraocular pressure; and there can be pain reduction.

His well-produced podcast goes into an overview of the cannabis plant, which comes in different genetic strains naturally and also is hybridized.

Cannabis contains more than 70 psychoactive compounds and 400 biologically active compounds (THC-tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD-cannabinoid, and CDN – cannabinol). THC is responsible for changes in mood and body state. CBD has effects on brain and body, but doesn’t get you “high.”

Huberman describes the difference between the Sativa and Indica strains of cannabis and how they bind to nerve receptors; the binding is so strong that they out-compete the endogenous, which are present throughout development, starting with the fetus.

There are several studies that now show that youth who start using marijuana at 12 or 14, “the risk of a psychotic episode, particularly schizophrenic or schizophrenic-like episodes more than doubles,” Huberman said. “The use of cannabis in young populations is predisposing people to psychotic episodes.”

This happens because there is a thinning of the so-called gray matter, (gray matter is where the cell bodies and the DNA is manufactured) and white matter is the axons – or wires to which key components are shipped out.

“Adolescent cannabis use accelerates the thinning of the prefrontal cortex and the gray matter in particular,” Huberman said. “When kids use cannabis and it doesn’t matter about the delivery, whether or not it’s vaping or smoking or edible, that gray matter thins at a much, much greater rate. . . . .the more often they consume or smoke or vape cannabis, the faster and the more extreme the cortical thinning.

“This is the area of the brain is involved in planning, control over one’s emotions, in reflexes, in organizing one’s life executing plans and organizing life,” he said. “Becoming a function human being requires using the prefrontal cortex in a variety of different contexts.”

“Even small amounts of cannabis use are associated with rates of cortical thinning and degrees of cortical thinning that are really detrimental and concerning for normal cognitive processes.”

“Some, not all, recovery of brain function can be restored,” he said and noted that some  of the highest chronic use of cannabis is among youth 16-24. About 20 percent in that age bracket are using cannabis daily, either by vaping, smoking or by edibles. “This is concerning because it leads to a higher likelihood of developing depression, anxiety, or psychosis later in life because the brain is still developing.”

Lancet Psychiatry in a July 25, 2022, article (“Association of Cannabis Potency with Mental Ill Health and Addiction: A Systematic Review”) wrote “Overall, use of higher potency cannabis, relative to lower potency cannabis, was associated with an increased risk of psychosis and cannabis use disorder (CUD). Evidence varied for depression and anxiety. The association of cannabis potency with CUD and psychosis highlights its relevance in health-care settings, and for public health guidelines and policies on cannabis sales.”

The National Library of Medicine reviewed the Lancet story and wrote, “Current evidence shows that high levels of cannabis use increase the risk of psychotic outcomes and confirms a dose-response relationship between the level of use and the risk for psychosis. Although a causal link cannot be unequivocally established, there is sufficient evidence to justify harm reduction prevention programs.”

JAMA Psychiatry in an Octoberr 2020 abstract “Association of High-Potency Cannabis Use with Mental Health and Substance Use in Adolescence”) wrote:To our knowledge, this study provides the first general population evidence suggesting that the use of high-potency cannabis is associated with mental health and addiction.

“Limiting the availability of high-potency cannabis may be associated with a reduction in the number of individuals who develop cannabis use disorders, the prevention of cannabis use from escalating to a regular behavior, and a reduction in the risk of mental health disorders.”





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