One of the first scientific studies on pregnancy and cannabis was done by Dr. Melanie Dreher RN, PhD, FAAN was done for over ten years in Jamaica. Both marijuana smokers and non-smokers were studied for the effects of cannabis on pregnancy and the child’s development. Dr. Dreher is dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Nursing and is the Associate Director for the University’s Department of Nursing and Patient Services. She is an overachiever who earned many honor degrees in nursing,anthropology, and philosophy before she was awarded a PhD in anthropology from the prestigious Columbia University.
“Although no positive or negative neural behavior effects of prenatal exposure were found at three 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.” Women also found that it worked to end the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness.
Dr. Deher’s research shows during the first month the babies of mothers who used cannabis showed better physiological stability at one month of age and required less examiner facilitation to reach an organized state in readying for social stimulation. The results of the comparison of babies of mothers who used marijuana smoking heavily and those of the non-using mothers was more prominent:
The heavily exposed babies were more socially responsive and more autonomically stable at thirty days than the non-use babies, quality of alertness was higher,their motor skills and autonomic systems were more robust, they were less irritable, they were less likely to show an imbalance of tone,they had better self-regulation. They needed less facilitation to reach an organized state to become organized than their non-using counterparts, and they were judged to be more rewarding by their caregivers.
Dr. Dreher is a multifaceted research and was chosen by her peers to do the research in Jamaica. Her specialties range from culture to child development to public health, She began her studies in medial anthropology early on in her studies. Her doctoral dissertation is now a book called, “Working Men and Ganja,” a cross-cultural study of chronic marijuana use. She is a widely published and researched writer, researcher, lecturer at the University of West Indies, and college professor. She has served as president of the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honour Society and 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.
From her study, “Dreher’s Jamaican Pregnancy Study-More Suppression of Marijuana Research,” follow up studies were conducted when the children reached the age to begin school and after. The mothers were defined as light users (1-10 spliffs per week), moderate (11-20), and heavy (21-70), the consumption of ganja tea was also taken into account. The children were measured using the McCarthy scale, which measures verbal, perceptivity, quantitative skills, memory and motor; a “behavioral style: scale measuring temperament, based on a 72-item questionnaire filled out by the child’s primary caregiver, and a quality of housing” index for socioeconomic status.
Dreher’s research was recounted at the patients Out of Time Conference in Santa Barbara, her team “found absolutely no differences” between the children whose mothers where not users to the mothers of the three using categories. “No differences at all.” Marijuana is an important medicine in Jamaica.
Dreher measured the school attendance and an additional “home scale,” accounting for stimulation in physical environment and language development and inputs for stimulus. “Low income Jamaican children do not have a lot of toys, but it is not unusual for a two-and-a-half-year-old to be washing out their father’s handkerchiefs to learn some adult skills.
The study was done in the eighties and the funding for the research has been discontinued. She has been able to keep in touch with some of them who are ) 40 original adults) adults and they are doing well. Dreher has criticized the media hype for reporting “hypersensitive crying and startled babies” but not reporting what she had actually found. “There was no miscarriage or neonatal complications, deformities or negative outcome on cognitive abilities. Apgar scored, head circumference, tremors and crying where not in the literature for the reporters to see.” She said unless the NIDA funded the research with Peter Fried as the principal investigator it was disregarded.
Dreher also recommended a 1989 Lancet article, The Bias Against the Null Hypothesis in which the authors reviewed all of the abstracts about the maternal uses of cocaine submitted to the Society of Pediatric Research in the 1980’s. Only 11-percent of negative abstracts (attributed no harm to cocaine) were accepted for publication.
Dreher’s “the politics of trying to get honest published criteria.” The Pediatrics published her findings four years later and her findings appeared in the West Indies Medical Journal before they were published in Pediatrics. “The publication clearly wanted to pain a different picture of cannabis exposure. Arrogant science refuses to see the significance of other cultures.”
“Marijuana use by pregnant women is a big red herring that prevents us from looking at the impoverished conditions children are raised in and the cheap and inexpensive way to get rid of morning sickness they use to be able to take care of their children, get a good night sleep and have the energy to do the work to care for and support their children.”
“A red herring that distract’s us from what is really important. Instead of researching our search for relatively narrow outcomes, like executive function, we need to look at school performance, peer relations, leadership skills in children, prenatal and family relations, healthy lifestyles. Are they participating in sports? Are they using tobacco or other substances? We need research on how using cannabis affects the quality of life. The NIDA and the NIH still do randomized clinical studies.”
“It is not an evolutionary accident that the two activities needed to sustain life and perpetuate life, eating and sex, are pleasurable as well as functional, and that marijuana enhances both of these activities.”