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THURSDAY, March 12, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Could depression prompt a pregnant woman to use marijuana?

New research suggests it could: Pregnant women with depression are more than three times more likely to use pot than those without depression, a new study finds.

Researchers with the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City analyzed U.S. federal data from 2005 to 2018. Marijuana users were defined as respondents who reported using the drug at least once in the past 30 days.

"Our findings are timely, given rapidly shifting perceptions about risks associated with cannabis use and its legalization," said researcher Renee Goodwin, from Columbia's Department of Epidemiology.

"We found the prevalence of cannabis use was much higher among those with depression who perceived no risk [24%] relative to those who perceived moderate-great risk associated with use [5.5%]," she said in a university news release.

Over 16% of pregnant women without depression who saw no risk in marijuana were users, compared to the less than 1% who perceived moderate-great risk. When depression factored in, these levels were substantially higher.

"Perception of greater risk associated with regular use seems to be a barrier to cannabis use, though pregnant women with depression who perceived moderate-great risk associated with regular cannabis use were more than six times as likely to use cannabis than those without depression," Goodwin said.

"With legalization, the degree to which dangers are thought to be linked with cannabis use appear to be declining in the U.S. overall, and this may also apply to pregnant women," she noted.

Thirteen percent of pregnant women with a major depressive episode reported past-month marijuana use compared to 4% without depression. For pregnant teens with depression, the percentage skyrocketed to about 25%.

"As brain development is ongoing until age 25, cannabis use in this [teen] group may increase risks for both mother and offspring," Goodwin said.

"Education about risks associated with cannabis use during pregnancy for both mother and offspring, especially among women with prenatal depression, are needed as cannabis is rapidly being legalized across the U.S," Goodwin added.

The study only showed associations and did not prove that depression caused marijuana use during pregnancy. It was published online recently in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more on cannabis use and pregnancy.

Kayla McKiski and Consumer news

Updated on September 23, 2022

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