Parents' Smoking Linked To Risk Of Psychotic Episodes In Kids

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The medical community has long discouraged parents-to-be, particularly moms, from drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs while trying to conceive and during pregnancy. Fetal alcohol consumption in particular has been shown to alter the central nervous system and inhibit a child's cognitive abilities, among other conditions.  A new study dials into an alarming potential impact of marijuana use by both mothers and fathers -- they say pot smoking could be tied to an increased risk of psychotic episodes in kids.

According to Reuters, the research, which was performed in the Netherlands, turned up evidence that cannabis use by parents could be a marker for "genetic and environmental vulnerability to psychotic experiences." The study team think there's potential to use this as a screening for children who are deemed at risk for psychosis in their adult life.

In this particular study, scientists looked at data from surveys given to 3,692 10-year-olds, questioning whether they have experienced symptoms described as what grownups with psychosis might experience with their condition. These include hearing voices undetected by others, seeing things others do not, and having thoughts that might be considered strange to others.

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In conjunction with this questionnaire, they also looked at reports completed by the kids' mothers about their pot use, and studied lab tests for markets of cannabis use in their urine.

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Credit: iStock / Marjan_Apostolovic

Interestingly, children of moms who used pot during their pregnancy were 38 percent more likely to mention experiencing these symptoms linked to psychotic episodes than those whose mothers did not engage in the drug. But the findings don't stop there. Kids whose moms were marijuana users only prior to getting pregnant, but did not use during their pregnancy, still had a 39 percent increased risk of psychotic-like symptoms.

It's important to note that the statistics involved in the study aren't only laying responsibility on the moms. The children of dads who used marijuana during pregnancy had a 44 percent increased risk of psychotic-like symptoms.

There's so much more research to be done on the topic, especially given that the medical community still isn't well-versed in how to effectively treat psychotic episodes in kids. It was also noted that experiencing these symptoms doesn't mean one is automatically categorized as having psychosis. Hopefully continued studies like this one will help to shed light on the field to help both parents and physicians manage such conditions.

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