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Update ~ Dreher’s research has hit mainstream media. See Fox news report.
Melanie Dreher, who is the dean of nursing at Rush Medical Center in Chicago, did a study in Jamaica. It was actually published in the American Journal of Pediatricsin 1994, but now it’s re-circulating because of all the interest in the neuroprotective properties.
Basically, she studied women during their entire pregnancy, and then studied the babies about a year after birth. And what she studied was a group of women who did smoke cannabis during pregnancy and those who didn’t. She expected to see a difference in the babies as far as birth weight and neuro tests, but there was no difference whatsoever. The differences that the researchers did notice, that are unexplained and kind of curious are that the babies of the women who had smoked cannabis — and we’re talking about daily use during their pregnancy — socialized more quickly, made eye contact more quickly and were easier to engage.
We don’t know why this is so, but all the old saws of smoking during pregnancy will result in low birth weight did not show up — at least in the Jamaican study. In U.S. studies where we’ve seen a similar investigation, women have concurrently been abusing alcohol and other drugs as well.
The 30-day test showed that children of ganja-using mothers were superior to children of non-ganja mothers in two ways: the children had better organization and modulation of sleeping and waking, and they were less prone to stress-related anxiety.
The editors of Patients for Medical Cannabis were in attendance at the final hearing of the Iowa Pharmacy Board’s review of medical marijuana, where Dr. Melanie Dreher presented the results of her studies with “ganja babies” over the phone. (You can read her testimony on the second page here.) She has been studying the medical uses of ganja, as it’s called in Jamaica, for 30 years.
A quotation from Dreher’s testimony – “You know, people ask me all the time whether I think marijuana should be legalized, and I have been of the opinion for a long time that this is much ado about nothing. It is, compared to tobacco and alcohol, this is such a benign substance.
“It does not seem to make a difference in either the productivity of the people in Jamaica… it seems to make no difference in terms of exposure during pregnancy …We looked at these children again at age five, both groups of children, and could find absolutely nothing that linked their development with their exposure during pregnancy.
“I …would strongly support the decriminalization of cannabis, and now that we understand about the endocannabinoid system that this is documented, it’s researched… now that we have knowledge of why cannabis is good medicine, something that Jamaicans have known for years, I think it’s time to seriously revisit this product, to understand and be able to dispense it as medicine legally and to decriminalize the other uses of marijuana.”
No signs of birth defects
A landmark study conducted in the 1990s by medical anthropologist Dr. Dreher, (co-author of the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science, and Sociology), gave the medical world a different insight into the use of marijuana by pregnant women in Jamaica. Dreher found that marijuana was being used in a cultural and medical context, as a way to relieve morning sickness or nausea, prevent depression and fatigue, and improve appetites. Her team observed both the mothers who used marijuana and their infants; they reported that there were no signs of birth defects or of behavioral problems in the marijuana-exposed children either during the month after birth or even several years after.
This is not to say that women should have no compunctions about using marijuana regularly and in large amounts during pregnancy. Rather, as scientists like Dreher argue, the medical community should improve its research methodologies, be more thorough, conduct more cross-cultural studies, and refrain from being so quick to conclude without solid evidence that any amount of marijuana use–no matter how slight–during pregnancy will do lasting harm to both mother and child. – Source
Prenatal Marijuana Exposure and Neonatal Outcomes in Jamaica: An Ethnographic Study
“Although no positive or negative neurobehavioral effects of prenatal exposure were found at 3 days of life using the Brazelton examination, there were significant differences between the exposed and non-exposed neonates at the end of the first month.
Comparing the two groups, the neonates of mothers who used marijuana showed better physiological stability at 1 month and required less examiner facilitation to reach an organized state and become available for social stimulation.
The results of the comparison of neonates of the heavy-marijuana-using mothers and those of the non-using mothers were even more striking…
- The heavily exposed neonates were more socially responsive and were more autonomically stable at 30 days than their matched counterparts.
- quality of their alertness was higher;
- their motor and autonomic systems were more robust;
- they were less irritable;
- they were less likely to demonstrate any imbalance of tone;
- they needed less examiner facilitation to become organized;
- they had better self-regulation;
- judged to be more rewarding for caregivers than the neonates of non-using mothers at 1 month of age
The following comes from Dr. Melanie Dreher, reefer researcher
When Dreher released solidly researched reports showing that children of ganja-using mothers were better adjusted than children born to non-using mothers, she encountered political and professional turbulence.
Dr. Melanie Dreher is one of a handful of scientists who have researched marijuana objectively and intelligently in the last three decades.
Dr Dreher is Dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing, and also holds the post of Associate Director for the University’s Department of Nursing and Patient Services. She’s a perpetual overachiever who earned honors degrees in nursing, anthropology and philosophy before being awarded a PhD in anthropology from prestigious Columbia University in 1977.
Although Dreher is a multi-faceted researcher and teacher whose expertise ranges from culture to child development to public health, she began early on to specialize in medical anthropology. After distinguishing herself as a field researcher in graduate school, Dreher was hand-picked by her professors to conduct a major study of marijuana use in Jamaica. Her doctoral dissertation was published as a book titled “Working Men and Ganja,” which stands as one of the premier cross-cultural studies of chronic marijuana use.
Along with being a widely-published researcher, writer, and college administrator, Dreher is a professor or lecturer at several institutions, including the University of the West Indies. She recently served as president of the 120,000 member Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honour Society, has been an expert witness in a religious freedom case involving ganja use by the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, and is one of the most well-respected academicians in the world.
This may explain why you hadn’t heard this news before:
from “Dreher’s Jamaican Pregnancy Study – More Suppression of Marijuana Research”
Dreher decried “the politics of trying to get published.” She now sees it as “a miracle” that Pediatrics published her work on neonatal outcomes, however belatedly, in 1994. (Her paper on five-year outcomes came out in the West Indian Medical Journal before Pediatrics ran the neonatal outcomes.) She suspects that a review of “all the fugitive literature that’s out there that didn’t get published” would convey “a very different picture of prenatal cannabis exposure.”
Honest research is also impeded, Dreher said, by “the politics of building a research career. Most research is done by academics and academia is a very conservative environment where tenure often is more important than truth.” (Dreher is now Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Iowa.)
The end result of biased science, Dreher observed, is a misinformed public. Recently, she “googled to see what was out there for the general public regarding pregnancy and marijuana.” Typical of the disinformation was an article entitled “Exposure to marijuana in womb may harm brain’ that began “Over the past decade several studies have linked behavior problems and lower IQ scores in children to prenatal use of marijuana…” A reference to Dreher said she had “written extensively on the benefits of smoking marijuana while smoking pregnant!”