Pre- and postnatal tobacco and cannabis exposure and child behavior problems: Bidirectional associations, joint effects, and sex differences
Prenatal maternal cannabis and tobacco use is predictive of behavioral problems among toddlers. Resulting differences from control groups include anxiety, depression, and attention problems. Female children of mom’s consuming substances, in particular, seem to be more susceptible to problems relating to internalization, attention, and sleep. Additionally, the behavioral problems induced by prenatal cannabis and tobacco consumption often lead to further maternal substance consumption, which frequently exacerbates existing behavioral problems.
Sleep Disturbances, Psychosocial Difficulties and Health Risk Behavior
A Dutch study investigated sleep disturbances in adolescents. Sleep disruption was linked to cannabis use, psychosocial difficulties, health risk behavior, and increased suicidality. Additionally, gender disparity in results suggests that girls may be more susceptible to sleep disturbances than boys , a result consistent with past recognition of some gender discrepancies in cannabis activity. These results highlight the importance of discouraging haphazard cannabis use, during adolescence, and the need for further gender-focused research surrounding sleep habits and cannabis use.
Dr Caplan, CED Foundation, and the #MDTake:
There are a few important issues that converge in this review. Generally, the question of adolescents’ use, (as an alternative way of describing the question of effects on a developing brain.) Also, this paper raises valuable questions about how cannabis may be interacting with sleep hygiene, for better or for worse. Psychosocial impact and risky behaviors are very complex topics to engage, even with a fairly large population sample of (n=16,781.) There are lots of intercorrelated topics assessed, analyzed, and discussed in the review, and it is all-too-easy to want to find causal patterns that are not apparent, again for better or worse, unless one chooses to construe the results or interpretation with causation in mind. Realistically, it is very likely to find overlap in a population of adolescents who have psychosocial difficulties, engage in risky behaviors, have increased risk of suicidality, and consume cannabis. To point to one of the components, arbitrarily, as the primary cause of the others is to unnecessarily and unjustly oversimplify a complex set of circumstances. The essential tenet, different genders seem to react differently with cannabis, is an excellent take-away, and also that we have much more still to learn.
Impacts of cannabinoid epigenetics on human development- reflections on Murphy et. al. ‘cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm’ epigenetics
An op-ed has praised the work published last year which exposed how pre-conception exposure to cannabis in males is related to alterations in epigenetic regulation of the central nervous and immune systems. Murphy et. al.’s paper ‘Cannabinoid exposure and altered DNA methylation in rat and human sperm,’ revealed that the sperm cells of men who have consumed cannabis are a key vector that may affect neuraxis, heart blood vessels, immune stimulation, secondary genomic instability, and carcinogenesis in the fetus offspring. The author of the response piece extrapolates the data collected by Murphy et. al. to conclude the genome-epigenome is extremely sensitive to environmental toxicants and that further research should examine the epigenomic toxicology of multiple cannabinoids.
The effect of prenatal exposure to cannabis on birth rates, birth outcomes, and the health of the mother is still uncertain. Studies focussing on cannabis use during pregnancy are limited, and what little has been reported, is inconsistent. The featured article now brings to light that bothparents may need to be cautious when attempting to conceive or when having unprotected sex as cannabis may affect both germ cells. Currently, governing bodies of obstetricians advise that pregnant mothers cease any cannabis use so if someone who needs cannabis for a medical purpose that improves their quality of life becomes pregnant they need to seek out alternative methods of treatment. Research is needed so that pregnant women can safely continue their medication or so that alternatives can be found so that women do not need to suffer for the duration of their pregnancy and possible breastfeeding period.
A 2019 study found that patients with early-stage psychotic disorders had lower levels of CB1-R (Cannabinoid Receptor – 1) compared to healthy individuals. These findings suggest that targeting CB1R with cannabis-based products could potentially treat psychotic disorders. Interestingly, reductions in CB1R levels were associated with greater symptom severity and poorer cognitive functioning but only in male patients. More research is needed into the intersections of gender and psychotic disorders.
In overarching trends, one pattern that is seen in the medical literature is a greater tendency for males to be more likely to develop drug abuse disorders than female counterparts, whilst females are more likely to develop anxiety disorders than male counterparts.
Of course, these trends are merely observational patterns in the current literature, which represents a biased perspective of biased subjects, and certainly not etched in stone. Further, many people do not conform to one pre-determined organization system as simple as gender to help educate whether they would be likely to develop drug dependence or anxiety, and even others don’t conform to a single gender. So, a sizeable grain of salt must be taken with what we understand from this literature.
That given, the relevant punch line here is what role might cannabis play in inducing or reducing anxiety across sexes, and how does cannabis might relate to addiction/dependence.
We are still at early stages of these important questions, but one recent study found, that female rats were significantly more likely than male rats to experience anxiety when given large doses of cannabis.