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Marijuana and Alcohol Together Cause Great Fetal Cell Death

posted 12:06 AM EST, Wed April 09, 2008
Marijuana and Alcohol Together Cause Great Fetal Cell Death © Photo: Mr. Toaster

Pregnant women shouldn't smoke marijuana, and they certainly shouldn't drink alcohol - but worst of all, is to take these two drugs together.

Pregnant women who use marijuana induce fetal growth retardation, cause a temporary syndrome of lethargy and decreased muscle tone in newborn infants, and in-utero exposure to THC can cause later in life learning difficulties and behavioral problems.

Researchers at the Neuroscience Research Institute in Berlin have now demonstrated that the combination of marijuana and mild doses of alcohol can cause widespread cell death in the developing fetal brain.

Researchers gave young rats, with still developing central nervous systems, THC and also THC with small doses of alcohol. The rats given only THC did not show any neurodegeneration, but when the rats were given the combination of THC and alcohol, there was great neurodegeneration.

The researchers then blocked the CB-1 receptors in the brain, which are the receptors activated by the endo cannibanoids in marijuana. The administration of both THC and alcohol to rats with blocked CB-1 receptors did not cause neurodegeneration. This proves that it is the THC in marijuana that is facilitating the alcohol induced cell death.

The study authors call for further research to explore if the damage caused is transient or permanent, and whether this damage creates permanent brain damage and behavioral problems. They also explain that CB-1 blocking medications, like Rimonabant, may be useful therapeutically in preventing fetal alcohol exposure caused brain damage.

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