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Smoking while Pregnant: Medical Marijuana Use on the Rise During Pregnancy and What It Could Mean for Pharmaceutical Companies

By Laura Kuhl
Jan 11, 2018

More moms are smoking weed. Medical use of cannabis is on the rise during pregnancy, and many women’s health professionals believe the rates will only increase. JAMA’s recent research with Kaiser Permanente Northern California, published just this month, shows a 10% increase among expecting mothers between the ages of 18 and 24. And that’s only the beginning. As more states work to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana, more patients are coming forward and being honest about their medical drug use during and after pregnancy.

Why Are Moms Using Cannabis?

This jump comes as no surprise. Cannabis and CBD oil offer relief from the symptoms of stressful pregnancy, including nausea and anxiety. More expectant mothers are using CBD in place of other prescriptions. Doctors in Arkansas are even seeing an increase as more local women seek healthier alternatives to painkillers. Dr. Tammy Tucker Post of Family Medicine in Arkansas supports this surge of medicinal marijuana. "As medicine, yes it absolutely helps with nausea. It helps with depression, anxiety and many of the conditions that go along with stress during pregnancy," she says. If this is the future of medical marijuana, then pregnant women could bring more changes to the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years.

These changes could come sooner rather than later. Pregnant women using cannabis and CBD supports the notion that patients are actually using medicinal marijuana as medicine rather than for recreation. This is contrary to the arguments presented by doctors on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies as of late. Talk like this without proper research stirs the pot for debate into the health benefits of medical marijuana versus popular prescription drugs, and it makes pharmaceutical companies uncomfortable

Should Pharmaceutical Companies Be Worried?

This lack of research into the effects of marijuana on a fetus leaves many doctors on the fence about what to tell their patients, regardless of what the pharmaceutical companies say. There is no direct research listing negative prenatal effects of marijuana, and many health care professionals believe it’s too early to tell. Even while there are still those fighting to re-classify marijuana’s drug standing, more and more states are working to find ways to make medical marijuana accessible to patients.  

Of course, it is much easier to get your hands on marijuana in state where it’s legal (or almost legal) to smoke. But this jump in marijuana use coincides with a rapid decrease in other prescribed drugs, including painkillers and antidepressants. States with medical marijuana laws like California and Arkansas saw drastic drops in painkiller prescriptions in 2013. This drop saved states nearly $165 million in Medicare funds that year. At the same time, cannabis and CBD use increased for these moms into 2014

With this kind of correlation, pharmaceutical companies and medical boards alike will continue to take notice. Even doctors are starting to ask for more research into the prenatal effects of cannabis and CBD. "We need to relook at the science and the laws," pleads Dr. Post. Replacing painkiller prescriptions with medicinal marijuana is not necessarily the future of this industry, but as more patients seek healthier alternatives it could mean big changes are still in store for both the pharmacies and marijuana manufacturers.


[Header Photo: Michael Fischer]

[Photo Credit: Leah Kelley]

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