A new study has warned that children born to mothers who had used marijuana as teens have a higher risk of drug abuse compared to children born to those who had no such habit.
Researchers in the Neuroscience and Reproductive Biology section at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a study to determine the transgenerational effects of cannabinoid exposure in adolescent female rats.
For three days, adolescent rats were administered the cannabinoid receptor agonist WIN-55, 212-2, a drug that has similar effects in the brain as THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. After this brief exposure, they remained untreated until being mated in adulthood.
The male offspring of the female rats were then measured against a control group for a preference between chambers that were paired with either saline or morphine.
The rats with mothers who had adolescent exposure to WIN-55,212-2 were significantly more likely to opt for the morphine-paired chamber than those with mothers who abstained. The results suggest that these animals had an increased preference for opiate drugs.
"Our main interest lies in determining whether substances commonly used during adolescence can induce behavioral and neurochemical changes that may then influence the development of future generations," said Research Assistant Professor John J. Byrnes, the study's lead author.
"We acknowledge that we are using rodent models, which may not fully translate to the human condition. Nevertheless, the results suggest that maternal drug use, even prior to pregnancy, can impact future offspring," Byrnes stated.
Byrnes added that much research is needed before a definitive connection is made between adolescent drug use and possible effects on future children.
The study was published in the Journal of Psychopharmocology and funded by the National Institutes of Health.