April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Marijuana is changing and the new dangers that it poses are changing as well. Today, marijuana is up to 20 percent more potent than it was 40 years ago. Pregnant women who use the drug are unaware that it could harm their unborn child before they even know they are pregnant.
Published in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, a new study argues that the idea that marijuana is a harmless drug is no longer valid due to the emergence of “high potency” marijuana and synthetic marijuana. These more potent varieties pose a real potential threat for pregnant women.
“The emergence of bioengineered crops and novel, medicinal marijuana strains, means that marijuana is no longer what it used to be in the 1970’s and early 1980s.’ Some new, high potency strains, including some medicinal marijuana blends such as ‘Connie Chung’ and many others, contain up to 20 times more THC, the psychoactive constituent of marijuana, than did ‘traditional’ marijuana from the 1970’s and early 1980’s ” explains Dr. Delphine Psychoyos from the Center for Genetic and Environmental Medicine at Texas A&M University. “Furthermore, with the emergence of dispensaries and Internet websites, high potency marijuana and Spice products are now readily available to the general population.”
Spice products, a prominent brand of ‘synthetic marijuana‘ whose name has become synonymous with nearly all forms of synthetic cannabinoids, contain extremely potent THC analogues such as AM694 (found in Euphoric Blends Big Band and others) and HU210 (found in Spice Gold), both of which are 500-600 times more potent than marijuana’s THC.
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the principal psychoactive element of marijuana.
As early as two weeks after conception, the THC contained in ‘high potency’ marijuana and the potent THC analogues contained in Spice products and other brands of ‘synthetic marijuana’, are potentially harmful to embryonic development. These psychoactive chemicals have the ability to interfere with the first stages in the formation of the brain of the fetus; this event occurs two weeks after conception. Most women have no idea that they are pregnant at this stage. By the time a woman realizes she is pregnant and stops taking these substances it may already be too late for her unborn child.
One study estimates that as much as 20 percent of pregnant women use marijuana, making it the most widely used illicit drug by pregnant women worldwide. That makes this a major issue.
Recent research has shown that marijuana exposure during pregnancy has been associated with anencephaly. Anencephaly is the absence of a large part of the brain and the skull. Other birth defects include neurobehavior deficiencies like ADHD, learning disabilities and memory impairment in toddlers and 10 year olds, as well as depression, aggression and anxiety in teens.
“The problem is that many women who are pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant are totally unaware of this increased potency and the risks they pose,” says Psychoyos. “This is because many websites on mothering and pregnancy, and those run by pro-marijuana advocacy groups, base their discussions on data collected prior to 1997, when no detrimental effects on pregnancy had been reported; It is important to note here that prior to 1997, pregnant women were mostly exposed to low potency, ‘traditional’ marijuana, which was the common form of marijuana in the market in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Marijuana has regained its popularity from the 1970s, especially among teens and young people, and has established social and cultural status as the most popular drug of abuse. Yet, like pregnant women, these young users probably have no idea of the significant increase in potency over the past four decades.”
The research team introduced many concerns: the awareness of the risks that pregnant women and their unborn children face, and the need to re-categorize high potency marijuana in legislation. They also stress the need for teens to be educated on the risks as well.