Part 2: The Most Recent and Conclusive Research on Cannabis During Pregnancy with Neuroscientist Andrew Scheyer
A short summary of what we learned in part 1. Andrew Scheyer is a Neuroscientist that studies the effects of cannabis use during pregnancy. The studies have looked at 800+ people and have studied the pregnant mothers and children in some cases through adulthood. In looking at collected data since 2002 – today, we have learned a couple things:
- Cannabis Use in Pregnant Women is Rising
- Cannabis use during pregnancy can cause deficits to social learning as well as the way in which we learn (Temporal Order Learning)
- Cannabis Use during pregnancy can cause children more likely to exhibit symptoms of social disruption
- Molds and microtoxins are very common in cannabis flower and it is hard to know what you are consuming
- CBD is not without risk to pregnant women, although the research is difficult
- CBD potentially has some really great uses like treating epilepsy and addiction – but Andrew would not recommend taking it during pregnancy
We ended talking about CBD:
“CBD is really interesting, and it potentially has some really great uses like treating epilepsy and addiction. I think it’s a fascinating prospect, but it is also not necessarily something I would recommend taking without purpose and without research”
Let’s Jump Back in With Part 2:
So Don’t Buy CBD at The Gas Station and Expect it To Solve All of Your Health Issues?
We use CBD in the lab. Its kept in a freezer that’s at minus 80 Celsius and not exposed to light. It’s wrapped in foil and everything. We still see that it degrades by about 10% per year. Which means the stuff you’re seeing at the gas station that’s sitting at room temperature or hot summer temperatures and is constantly exposed to light. There’s a very good chance that there’s actually no CBD in there at all.
There are a lot of things like that. There are a lot of things that are light and temperature sensitive. Fish oil pills. If you are taking probiotics, you should probably keep them in the fridge. And if you’re consuming CBD, you should definitely be keeping it away from light and in the fridge or freezer.
Are there any pharmaceutical drugs that you might be prescribed that cannabis would actually be safe? A safer alternative?
For treating pain, there’s a lot of evidence that cannabis is a much safer medication. It depends on what kind of pain. Um, you know, there’s a lot of different sources of pain and a very large percentage of the world, especially in the United States and other Western nations, suffers from chronic pain. But those come from a lot of different sources, so it’s a complex answer.
Most pain medications carry a high risk of addiction as we all know from the opioid epidemic that has been ravaging the United States for the past decade or more. If cannabis can treat your pain, I think it’s absolutely a better alternative. I would say the same for chronic anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder. A lot of the drugs that people get prescribed for those like benzodiazepines, which includes Xanax, Valium, clonazepam, those are highly addictive.
The withdrawal symptoms are not only unpleasant, but they’re potentially life threatening. If you can stay away from those and use small amounts of cannabis in place of it, I think that’s a great application for it.
I also see cannabis often being touted as this sort of wonder drug that can do everything from help you with your generalized anxiety to curing your grandmas Alzheimer’s and your friends breast cancer. While there’s a lot of interesting research being done in a lot of those domains, I think it’s irresponsible to recommend that somebody stop their medication for, say, cancer and start taking a ISO or hash oils instead.
I see that far too frequently and that is really upsetting because while it potentially is effective, It’s certainly not as effective as what those people are being treated with. Why are you playing with people’s lives there?
So be Wary as Cannabis as a “Wonder Drug”?
A great example is – maybe 10 years ago, maybe a little bit less – there was this huge obsession with resveratrol which is the compound that’s found in red wine. The story behind it is that some researchers isolated this compound that is indeed found in red wine. And when they put it on cells in a Petri dish, or they put it on brain slices in the lab and they found that it’s a really potent antioxidant.
What happened really quickly, as soon as that paper got published, was that the pop media picked it up and said, red wine is a great antioxidant and it can stave off Alzheimer’s because antioxidants can do that. But you’re making a lot of leaps to get to that point.
So there is indeed research that says that cannabinoids and THC and CBD can be helpful in fighting tumors. That’s true. The data are not false. However, those things have been shown with cancer cells in a Petri dish being exposed to THC and then a media source sees that and runs with it and says cannabis cures cancer. It’s an unreasonable leap to make.
Let’s go Back to Pregnancy. In regards to pre-pregnancy and the time of conceiving, if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, should you start weaning off essentially?
A couple things there. One is that a lot of the effects that have been seen in these large scale human studies are first trimester effects. In a lot of cases these are women who were consuming during the first trimester either because they didn’t know that they were pregnant or they only decided or learned that cannabis during pregnancy was a bad choice later into their pregnancy and then they stopped. However, we still see really significant effects with that first trimester use.
Because most people do not know they’re pregnant at the very moment of conception, I think if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s probably a good idea to not be smoking. Also cannabinoids stay in your system for quite a long time. They’re what we call lipophilic, which means fat loving. It’s one of the reasons that they transfer so well through breastmilk.
Women in particular carry a fair bit of body fat. Even a lean woman still has about 18% body fat by weight and cannabinoids stick around in that body fat, which is one of the reasons that you can test positive for cannabis even if you haven’t consumed it in several weeks. So just because you’re not smoking the day that you concieve does not mean that there are not cannabinoids still in your body and in your system. And as you know, everything that is in your body is also in your unborn child’s body.
This Evidence is Conclusive, is There Research About the Subject you Are Not Sure About Yet?
Yeah, I think the stuff that really hasn’t quite gotten there is this the work that we’re doing on the lactation period during breastfeeding. Our research is actually the first to show that THC is effectively transferred through breast milk and ends up in the brains of the offspring of babies. So that is certainly a situation where the research isn’t totally there yet. We’re just skimming the surface of that. However, when it comes to cannabis use during pregnancy, at this point, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty details of how things work at a molecular level in terms of the big picture stuff. We are pretty confident in the findings across the scientific community.
You’re in France. Is it easier to study cannabis in France than it is in the US?
No. It’s remarkably difficult to study cannabis regardless of where you are (see related Article), unfortunately. The reason that most studies that you read are done with synthetic cannabinoids is a purely pragmatic decision. It’s very difficult to get approval to do studies with actual cannabis or with actual THC. Just to give you a little example, a colleague of mine who’s in Colorado wanted to look at this debate around THC to CBD ratios in cannabis. They were forbidden from giving cannabis to individuals because all of our funding as scientists is federally regulated. According to the federal government, it’s still a schedule one drug.
They said, no, you cannot give cannabis to people, period. So then they said, okay, so could we go to people’s homes and take blood measurements and let them consume their own cannabis? And the federal body still came back and said, no, as soon as you’re conducting science in their homes, that becomes a defacto laboratory and therefore it’s illegal for you to be dealing with the cannabis.
So what they finally had to do in the end was they created a van where they could take various measurements and they would park it on the same street as a person’s house. Then they would ask that person to consume the cannabis of choice and record what it was and how they consumed it. Then that person had to leave their house, get into this van, and that’s where they could take blood pressure and blood sample measurements, etc. This is happening in a state where cannabis is recreationally and medically legal, and they still had to jump through hoops like that. Imagine the rest of the, the rest of the country, it’s a very difficult field to be in.
Do you think if cannabis was legalized, research would be able to move faster?
Absolutely. I mean, if you look at the situation in Canada, for instance, the labs who are doing similar work to what we do are having a much easier time. For instance, earlier in our discussion I talked about the development of vapor chambers so that we could do more realistic studies in animal models. That’s all happening in Canada.
Access to actual herbs and actual users of cannabis. All of that is much easier in a place like Canada where it is federally legal. That remains the biggest problem in the US.
What are your one, five and 10 year industry predictions?
That’s tough. I would say within the next year we’re going to see an increase in States which have legalized, decriminalized or otherwise reclassified cannabis.
I do believe that within five years Canada will not be the only major nation, to have legal cannabis. Of course, we know that there are others, Uruguay has legal cannabis, but they’re not exactly setting global precedence at the moment. So my five year prediction would be that we will see more national level a reclassification of cannabis.
I absolutely believe within 10 years that cannabis will be recreationally legal in the United States. However, I will say as a caveat that I am not convinced that there will remain a medicinal market for cannabis as a plant material in the United States. I believe that we will move towards cannabis based medications. For instance, you have right now Sativex or dronabinol the latter of which is synthetic THC. The former is a plant derived, but pharmaceutically pure THC and CBD.
I think that the medical market as a whole will move towards cannabinoid based drugs. I think that we’ll do a way with actual plant material because no doctor will ever tell you that smoking something or taking a variable plant into your body is a great medication. So I think we’ll move away from that. But towards recreational full legalization.
Is there anything else that you would like to add or feel we missed?
I think that there’s a huge gap between what we call ‘bench to bedside’, which is what’s happening in the lab to what’s happening in the rest of the world. There’s so much important information and so much important research that’s being done that never makes it to the public. This is exactly why I enjoy these kinds of conversations is because I think it’s absurd that all of this publicly funded research ends up sequestered away in some dusty bookshelf or on the internet behind a paywall on pub med. I think that public communication is a key to all of this.
For More on Cannabis Podcasting: