Prenatal cannabis use and the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder in offspring: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Journal of Psychiatric Research

Volume 171, March 2024, Pages 142-151

Author links open overlay panel Abay Woday Tadesse ac

, Berihun Assefa Dachew a

, Getinet Ayano a

, Kim Betts a rights and content

Under a Creative Commons license



It is plausible that exposure to cannabis in-utero could be associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during childhood and adolescence; however, mixed results have been reported. This study investigated whether there is an association between prenatal cannabis use and ADHD symptoms and ASD in offspring using a systematic review and meta-analysis methodology.


A systematic literature search was conducted in PubMed/Medline, Scopus, EMBASE, Web of Science, Psych-Info, and Google Scholar to identify relevant studies. The study protocol has been preregistered in the Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) (CRD42022345001), and the Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale (NOS) was used to assess the methodological quality of included studies. An inverse variance weighted random effect meta-analysis was conducted to pool the overall effect estimates from the included studies.


Fourteen primary studies, consisting of ten on ADHD and four on ASD, with a total of 203,783 participants, were included in this study. Our meta-analysis underscores an increased risk of ADHD symptoms and/or disorder [β = 0.39: 95 % CI (0.20–0.58), I2 = 66.85 %, P = 0.001)] and ASD [RR = 1.30: 95 % CI (1.03–1.64), I2 = 45.5 %, P = 0.14] associated with in-utero cannabis exposure in offspring compared to their non-exposed counterparts. Additionally, our stratified analysis highlighted an elevated risk of ADHD symptoms [β = 0.54: 95 % CI (0.26–0.82)] and a marginally significant increase in the risk of diagnostic ADHD among exposed offspring compared to non-exposed counterparts [RR = 1.13, 95 % CI (1.01, 1.26)].


This study indicated that maternal prenatal cannabis exposure is associated with a higher risk of ADHD symptoms and ASD in offspring.


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