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Researchers Examine Pot Use in Pregnancy, Get Pushback

Controversial study examines whether marijuana can help with morning sickness
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 8, 2019 6:53 AM CDT
In this July 26, 2019, photo, Leslie Siu poses for a portrait next to her cannabis products geared toward women on display at the GroundSwell dispensary in Denver. Pregnancy started out rough for her,...   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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(Newser) – There's no proof that cannabis can relieve morning sickness, and mainstream medicine advises against use in pregnancy due to studies suggesting it might cause premature birth, low birthweight, and infant brain deficits. But the National Institute on Drug Abuse is pressing for more solid evidence. With nearly $200,000 from the NIDA, University of Washington scientists are seeking clearer answers in a new study investigating potential effects on infants' brains, per the AP. They're enrolling pregnant Seattle women during their first trimester who are already using pot for morning sickness. Researchers don't provide the pot, and the use of other drugs, tobacco, and alcohol isn't allowed. Infants will have brain scans at 6 months and will be compared with babies whose moms didn't use pot while pregnant.

The pot users are asked to buy from licensed dealers and photograph it so researchers can calculate the THC. Participants are paid $300 but can quit using anytime and remain in the study. For government and university authorities, it's worthy research that takes advantage of a booming trend: Recent data show the number of pregnant US pot users has doubled since 2002. Critics call it bogus research that endorses drug use and needlessly endangers fetuses. But Susan Weiss, who oversees outside research for the NIDA, disagrees. "One of the big arguments about why this is unethical is that we already know the answers. That is not true," she says. "We're living in this very large social experiment and we need to learn from it." The NIDA is providing almost $1.5 million for three similar studies—at Washington University in St. Louis, at the University of Denver, and at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. (More on this controversial study here.)

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