Study Shows Parents’ Marijuana Use May Spur Addiction in Children

By Paul Gaita 01/24/14

Researchers found that subsequent generations of THC-laden lab mice were more prone to addiction and other compulsive disorders.

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Can a predilection for marijuana use in parents be passed down to their children? According to a recent study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York discovered it's possible that children of pot-smoking parents may develop addictions or other compulsive disorders later in life.

The research showed that the male offspring of rats injected with marijuana’s active ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol, or THC, not only displayed lowered motivation and weight gain, but also exerted greater effort to self-administer heroin – and experienced withdrawal symptoms when not given the drug - than those offspring of rats given just a saline solution.

Though the metabolic effect was not present in the test subjects’ third generation of offspring, the results were significant enough to underscore concerns about the neurological effect of exposure to cannabis on children and young adults, which in turn may have a significant impact on recent propositions regarding medical and recreational marijuana. “Finding increased vulnerability to drug addiction and compulsive behavior in generations not directly exposed is an important consideration for legislators considering legalizing marijuana,” said Yasmin Hurd, Ph.D, the study’s senior author and professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The study, funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will be followed by future research into epigenetic exposure – that is, exposure across generational lines – to see if a drug use habit can be imposed upon grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Researchers also expressed optimism that their findings could offer insight into new treatment interventions to prevent cross-generational drug use.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.