UC San Diego Study Finds THC in Breast Milk of Mothers Who Smoke Pot

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Marijuana plants. File photo via Wikimedia Commons

A UC San Diego study published Monday found that 63 percent of breastfeeding mothers who use marijuana had trace amounts of THC in their breast milk up to six days after their last use of the drug.

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The study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, was undertaken because of a lack of hard data regarding infant exposure to THC and other chemicals in marijuana via breast milk. Researchers studied 54 samples from 50 women who used marijuana — primarily by inhalation — daily, weekly or sporadically.

“We found that the amount of THC that the infant could potentially ingest from breast milk was relatively low, but we still don’t know enough about the drug to say whether or not there is a concern for the infant at any dose, or if there is a safe dosing level,” said Dr. Christina Chambers, a pediatrics professors and the study’s principal investigator.

Marijuana usage rates among pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have increased since nine states, including California, legalized recreational and medicinal use of the drug, according to the UCSD researchers. They said breast milk, which is high in fat content, is liable to contain trace amounts of marijuana’s active compounds like THC because of the chemical’s tendency to bind with fat molecules.

Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against use of the drug by breastfeeding mothers. The World Health Organizaton also recommends that mothers breast-feed exclusively in the first six months of a baby’s life because it decreases the risk of health problems like asthma and diabetes for both mothers and children. The question remains how significant THC in breast milk is to the healthy development of a child, according to Chambers, who said the study lays the foundation for further research.

“Are there any differences in effects of marijuana in breast milk for a 2-month-old versus a 12-month-old, and is it different if the mother smokes versus eats the cannabis?” Chambers said. “These are critical areas where we need answers as we continue to promote breast milk as the premium in nutrition for infants.”

–City News Service

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