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Prenatal Marijuana Exposure Predicts Marijuana Use in Young Adulthood
Sonon KE, Richardson GA, Cornelius JR, Kim KH and Day NL
Neurotoxicology Teratology 47:10-15, 2015

Among US males and females 18 to 25 years of age, 52% have used marijuana, 32% have used marijuana within the past year, and 19% have used marijuana in the past month. Marijuana use peaks in the early 20s, and this time period coincides with the average age of first births for women (23 years of age).  Prenatal exposure to marijuana results in higher rates of CNS and behavioral deficits in the offspring.  As a result, the recent increase in marijuana use, an increase in the strength of marijuana, and the legalization of marijuana in several states makes marijuana use during pregnancy a significant and increasing concern. 

In collaboration with her mentor, Dr. Nancy Day, and other Department of Psychiatry faculty membes, Dr. Kristen Sonon examined data from a longitudinal study of the effects of prenatal marijuana exposure (PME).  Women and their offspring were followed from the fourth gestational month through 22 years postpartum.  At 22 years, 608 offspring were interviewed, which represents 80% of the birth sample.  The investigators analyzed the frequency of offspring marijuana use at 22 years by level of first trimester PME.  They found that offspring with PME were significantly more likely to have begun marijuana use by 22.  These individuals also used marijuana more often and more frequently in the past year and at greater amounts than did those with no PME.  These effects remained significant after controlling for prenatal alcohol exposure, family history of drug or alcohol problems, race, gender, and offspring age at assessment.  

These findings have important public health and clinical implications as the national attitude toward marijuana use shifts, and emphasize the importance of educating women of reproductive age about the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy.  

Contributors:
Kristen Sonon, PhD (Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh)

Gale Richardson, PhD, Jack Cornelius, MD and Nancy Day, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)

Kevin H. Kim, PhD (Department of Educational Psychology, University of Pittsburgh)

This article appears in the journal Neurotoxicology Teratology.  To access the abstract, click here.