Children whose mothers use marijuana may try it at a younger age

September 24, 2018

Boston, MA - Children whose mothers use marijuana are more likely to start their own marijuana use an average of two years earlier than children whose mothers don't use the drug, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study will be published September 24, 2018 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Beginning marijuana use at a young age has been linked with negative cognitive and behavioral consequences," said Natasha Sokol, who led the study while a doctoral student at Harvard Chan School and is now a postdoctoral research fellow at Brown University School of Public Health's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies. "In a shifting regulatory environment in the U.S. in which the visibility and acceptability of adult marijuana use is expected to increase, it's important to better understand how these changes may impact children's early marijuana use so that we can better identify at-risk youth and implement effective prevention strategies."

Prohibiting marijuana isn't necessarily consistent with public health goals, according to the study authors. For example, marijuana has recognized therapeutic benefits for a number of health conditions, and may serve as a safer alternative to opioids. In addition, more than half of all drug arrests in the U.S. are marijuana-related and are a major driver of racial disparities in arrest and incarceration.

But in children who begin use at a young age, marijuana has been linked with negative consequences such as impairments in concentration and decision-making, increased impulsivity, and reductions in IQ. The younger a child is when he or she begins using marijuana, the more severe the effects, studies have suggested. Therefore, delaying marijuana initiation may be an important public health goal, the authors said.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and Child and Young Adults, the new study assessed the timing and extent of marijuana use and initiation among 4,440 children and 2,586 mothers. Researchers tested for the effect of a mother's marijuana use between a child's birth and age 12 on that child's subsequent risk of marijuana initiation, controlling for factors related to the child's early life behavior and cognition and on the family's socioeconomic position and social environment.

The study found that 2,983 children (67.2%) and 1,053 mothers (35.3%) self-identified as marijuana users. Children whose mothers used marijuana were at increased risk for starting marijuana use prior to age 17, and they began using at a median age of 16, compared with age 18 for children whose mothers didn't use the drug. The association was slightly stronger among non-Hispanic non-black children.

One limitation of the study was that it did not measure whether children were aware of their mothers' marijuana use. The study also lacked data on the frequency and severity of mothers' marijuana use.

"Although more research is needed, physicians who prescribe marijuana might consider educating parents who use the drug about the potential dangers of early marijuana use among their children, and provide information and preventive strategies to delay such use," said Vaughan Rees, lecturer on social and behavioral sciences and director of Harvard Chan School's Center for Global Tobacco Control.
-end-
Other Harvard Chan School authors included Cassandra Okechukwu, Jarvis Chen, and S.V. Subramanian.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.