From the Journals

Despite declines in prenatal use of alcohol and cigarettes, cannabis use is on the rise



Despite general decreases in cigarette and alcohol use among pregnant women during 2002-2016, cannabis use in pregnancy persisted and has actually increased slightly over the past 14 years, reported Arpana Agrawal, PhD, and her associates, of the Washington University, St. Louis.

Marijuana being rolled into a joint. Doug Menuez/thinkstock

Dr. Agrawal and her associates analyzed data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health from 2002-2016 to quantify changes in alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use among pregnant women aged 18-44 years. Survey-adjusted prevalence estimates of alcohol, cigarette, and cannabis use in 2002 were 10%, 18%, and 3%, respectively, versus corresponding rates in 2016 of 8%, 10%, and 5%, according to their research letter in JAMA Pediatrics.

A sampling of 12,058 women aged 18-25 years (n = 8,170) or 26-44 years (n = 3,888) was taken from a population of more than 436,056 women included in the National Survey database. Fully 3,554 of the women included in the final study group were in their first trimester of pregnancy.

The findings in Dr. Agrawal’s study were similar to another study conducted by Brown et al., although the exact prevalence for cannabis use differed slightly.

In addition to observing a reduction in the use of alcohol and cigarettes, the authors also noted a significant decline in the combined use of alcohol and cigarettes together. For alcohol use specifically, the greatest decrease was seen among women aged 18-25 years. For cigarette smoking in pregnancy, the most significant decreases were seen in white women, those aged 18-25 years, and those who had achieved completion of high school or more advanced studies.

Overall, the effects were modest when sample sizes were stratified by trimester: decreases in cigarette smoking were observed in the first trimester, and more significantly, later in pregnancy. For alcohol, nominal reductions were observed in the second and third trimesters. Cannabis use, on the other hand, increased in the first trimester, but showed no significant increases during the second and third trimesters.

“Greater public awareness regarding the consequences of prenatal cannabis exposure in offspring health is necessary,” Dr. Agrawal and her colleagues wrote.

The authors had no relevant disclosures to report. Funding was provided by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

SOURCE: Agrawal A et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2018 Nov 5. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.3096.

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