02 March 2006

Dagga harms foetuses' brains

Italian researchers have found that if rat foetuses are exposed to marijuana, it may affect the babies' behaviour and memory after birth.


Italian researchers have found that if rat foetuses are exposed to marijuana, it may affect the babies' behaviour and memory after birth. This reaffirms advice for pregnant and lactating women to kick the habit.

The researchers from the University "La Sapienza" Roma in Rome are quick to say that their findings in rats obviously cannot be directly translated to humans. But they also say that animal studies can provide predictive information about how the human brain functions. In doing so, rat studies could be an essential step forward to solving human diseases.

Study head, Dr Vincenzo Cuomo believes that his team's findings represent yet another warning to pregnant and lactating women to stop using dagga.

The study results are published in the advance online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Conflicting studies
Past studies of the effect of marijuana on pregnant women and their offspring have had very different results. According to the study author, this could be because there are often impurities in the drug and is also due to the fact that many women that smoke dagga, also smoke tobacco.

Although marijuana is one of the most popular illicit drugs, there have been very few studies of its effect on pregnant women.

Some researchers have, however, been following relatively large groups of children whose mothers smoked dagga when they were in the womb. Researchers did find that these children had problems with their mental and motor development.

Baby rats had problems
Cuomo's team injected a synthetic marijuana-like compound into the bloodstreams of pregnant rats. This daily dose was equivalent in human terms to a low-to-moderate dose of the illegal drug.

Researchers found that baby rats that were born to exposed mothers had behavioural and memory problems. They were also hyperactive, but this did not last long. Memory problems however, were long-lasting.

This study agrees with others of its kind that have found that the use of marijuana by pregnant women, has bad mental and behavioural implications for their offspring. – (Health24)

Read more:
Long-term pot use takes its toll
Cannabis a mind risk


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