For Morning Sickness, Pot A Poor Idea

September 24, 2018

Q: I read that more women are using marijuana for morning sickness. This doesn’t seem like a good idea, but for women with severe morning sickness, might it be an option? Could it really hurt the baby? A: Marijuana refers to the flowering annual Cannabis sativa. It’s a complex plant packed with phytochemicals with a number of potential medical applications. While it’s true that smoking cannabis has been shown to ease nausea, when it comes to morning sickness, we do not recommend it. Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, and at the state level is subject to a tangled and often conflicting patchwork of regulations. That means many of its prospective medical applications have not yet undergone the robust and rigorous study needed to ascertain efficacy, safety and dosage parameters. For women considering smoking or ingesting cannabis while pregnant, it’s important to understand that the placenta allows its psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to reach the developing fetus. Some research has put the amount at 10 percent of what the mother receives, a concentration that rises with repeated use. Some studies have suggested a link between cannabis use in pregnant women with low birth-weight babies and impaired neurological development. As we said earlier, medical research into cannabis is in its infancy. Until we have a better understanding of the outcomes of its use during pregnancy, the recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is that women who are pregnant, as well as those who plan to be, should not use cannabis. Switching gears, we heard from many of you after the publication of the column about CBD, or cannabidiol. CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in Cannabis sativa and unlike THC, is not psychoactive. CBD has been shown to have great therapeutic potential. We stated that despite the explosion of CBD products now available, none was FDA-approved. At the time we wrote the column, this was indeed true. However, several weeks later, the first CBD medication received FDA approval. Called Epidiolex, it’s a treatment for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. Since cannabis remains a controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Administration must also provide regulatory approval for Epidiolex. Once the DEA schedules its use, the question of availability moves to the state level. Many small pharmacies and at least one national chain, Rite Aid, have already stated that they will stock and sell the drug once it has cleared regulatory hurdles. ASK THE DOCTORS appears every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It is written by Eve Glazier, M.D., and Elizabeth Ko, M.D. Send questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095.

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