A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter 2024 | Number 1, Volume 38

Meta-analysis suggests association between prenatal exposure to cannabis and ASD or ADHD

A meta-analysis by researchers from Ethiopia and Australia suggests that prenatal exposure to cannabis may increase the odds of a child being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Abay Woday Tadesse and colleagues analyzed data from 14 studies, 10 on ADHD and four on ASD, with a total of more than 200,000 participants. They report, “In this systematic review and meta-analysis, we found that offspring exposed to prenatal cannabis use had an increased risk of ADHD symptoms and ASD compared with unexposed offspring. Adjustment for maternal mental health problems, maternal alcohol use, and tobacco smoking did not substantially alter the observed associations.”

The researchers caution that larger studies are needed to confirm their results. However, they conclude, “The findings suggest the importance of implementing prevention and early interventions among offspring exposed to prenatal cannabis use.”


“Prenatal cannabis use and the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder in offspring: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Abay Woday Tadesse, Berihun Assefa Dachew, Getinet Ayano, Kim Betts, and Rosa Alati, Journal of Psychiatric Research, March 2024 (free online). Abay Woday Tadesse, School of Population Health, Curtin University, Kent Street, Bentley, WA, 6102, Australia, [email protected].