Jamaican study on the effects of cannabis and pregnancy

Taboo topic researched in Jamaica

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Cannabis and Pregnancy
Photo by: MedicalJane

Pregnant women and smoking marijuana may be an unthinkable topic to discuss for some, but some pregnant women will turn to cannabis for relief from stress and nausea in their first trimester.

Pregnant Jamaican women, for example, consume marijuana to relieve depression, stress, and nausea, generally in the form of a tonic or tea.  An ethnographic study was conducted on marijuana use by pregnant women in Jamaica in the late 1960s by Melanie Dreher, a graduate student at the time.  She was chosen by her professors to examine and cite the usage and consequences of these pregnant women who consume marijuana.

Many North American studies on this topic have shown consuming cannabis while pregnant may cause congenital disabilities and developmental problems, but these studies added alcohol, tobacco, meth, and heroin to their reviews.  Dreher’s research shows something different.

Dreher studied some Jamaican infants subjected to marijuana prenatally and some infants who were not exposed. What she found was a civilization that organized its cannabis intake and recognized its use as spiritual.

Dreher used the Brazelton Scale, the highly identified neonatal behavioral projection that evaluates behavior when determining the impact of cannabis use during pregnancy.  Brazelton Scale profile detects the baby’s adaptive responses, strengths, and possible vulnerabilities.  Researchers continued to assess the children up until they were five years old, and the results showed no negative impact on those children and these children seemed to excel more than others.

Since the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), did not like the answers to this study, they stopped Dreher’s funding.  Although March of Dimes was supportive of the research, Dreher said it was clear to her that NIDA did not want to fund a study on the subject unless the results were negative.  Therefore, the study ended, and she missed the opportunity to finish this review with the children through their adolescent and adult years.

Dr. Dreher’s study wasn’t the first study about smoking marijuana in Jamaica. In 1975, Ganja in Jamaica, A Medical Anthropological Study of Chronic Marijuana Use, oversaw research without any adverse findings.  This particular study found that smoking cannabis did not have damaging social or psychological ramifications for the consumer. Great news for Ganga smokers, not so great news for the National Institute of Mental Health’s Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse.