Exposure to marijuana may have effects that last for a generation, even if children are never directly exposed to the drug themselves, according to a new study that was conducted using laboratory rats. The study, which was published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found that adolescent rats who were exposed to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana smoke, affected the behavior of their offspring, who were not exposed to THC. Compulsive and addictive behaviors were found to be more common among the progeny. More from ScienceDaily:
"Our study emphasizes that cannabis [marijuana] affects not just those exposed, but has adverse affects on future generations," said Yasmin Hurd, PhD, the study's senior author, and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. "Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana."
In the study, Dr. Hurd and colleagues gave adolescent male rats 1.5 mg/kg of THC, similar to about one joint in human use. None of the rats had been exposed to THC before, but their parents were exposed to THC as teens and then mated later in life. THC-exposed offspring worked harder to self-administer heroin by pressing a lever multiple times to get a heroin infusion.
Although marijuana use and safety tends to be discussed in terms of its impact to the individual during the lifetime, few studies have addressed adverse effects in future generations. "What this opens up are many questions regarding the epigenetic mechanisms that mediate cross-generational brain effects," said Dr. Hurd.
Image: Marijuana joint, via Shutterstock