Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

With Legalization Imminent, CCSA Releases Report on Cannabis Use during Pregnancy

Cites potential effects lasting into adolescence and young adulthood

Ottawa, August 30, 2018 — With cannabis legalization less than 50 days away, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) has released the latest version of Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis: Maternal Cannabis Use during Pregnancy.

The report concludes that, in addition to increasing the risk for low birthweight, smoking cannabis while pregnant can result in effects on the child well into adolescence and young adulthood. These effects include:

  • Increases in attention deficits;
  • Hyperactivity;
  • Impulsivity;
  • Lower academic performance in school; and
  • An increased risk for mental health and substance use issues later in life.

“Information on the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy is essential to help healthcare providers advise patients about the impact of cannabis use and improve the health and well-being of patients’ children,” explains Chealsea De Moor, knowledge broker at CCSA. “Healthcare professionals can take this opportunity to openly discuss these issues with their patients to motivate behaviour change for the benefit of both mother and child.”

Research also found that, like alcohol, elements in cannabis (namely THC) transfer through breast milk to infants. There is no research on the effects of THC on infants independent from prenatal exposure, but experts have suggested that infants exposed to THC could experience:

  • Sedation;
  • Lethargy;
  • Poor eating habits; and
  • Difficulty with mother-infant bonding.

After alcohol, cannabis is the most widely used psychoactive substance in Canada. In 2015, almost 17% of Canadian women of childbearing age reported using cannabis within the past year.

“This is a timely report as come October Canadians will be able to buy cannabis legally for recreational purposes and there is a lot of misinformation on cannabis use during pregnancy,” says Sarah Konefal, research and policy analyst at CCSA. “Providing expectant mothers, families, healthcare providers and related audiences the resources to make informed decisions was key for this update.”

CCSA began publishing reports in the Clearing the Smoke on Cannabis series in 2009. These reports continue to be among the most frequently downloaded resources from the CCSA website.



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