Children whose mothers use marijuana are more likely to start smoking weed an average of two years earlier, which can lead to severe neuropsychiatric and social consequences, according to a new study.
The results, led by researchers from the Brown University in Rhode Island, US, suggested that mothers who used marijuana increased their children's risk for its early use, at a median age of 16, as compared with age 18 for children whose mothers did not use the drug.
While marijuana has been recognised as a therapeutic benefit for a number of health conditions, including a safer alternative to opioids, it has been linked with negative consequences among children.
Early usage of cannabis may lead to conditions such as impairments in concentration and decision-making, increased impulsivity, as well as reductions in IQ.
The younger a child begins using marijuana, the more severe the effects would be. Therefore, delaying marijuana initiation may be an important public health goal, the researchers said.
"Beginning marijuana use at a young age has been linked with negative cognitive and behavioural consequences," said Natasha Sokol, a postdoctoral student at the varsity.
"It's important to better understand how these changes may impact children's early marijuana use so that we can better identify at-risk youth and implement effective prevention strategies," she added.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the team assessed the timing and extent of marijuana use and initiation among 4,440 children and 2,586 mothers.
They tested the effect of a mother's marijuana use between a child's birth and age 12 on that child's subsequent risk of marijuana initiation and controlling for factors related to the child's early life behaviour.
The researchers also analysed the impacts of mother's marijuana use on child's cognitive skills, family's socio-economic position and social environment.