Start A Petition

Why Are We Testing Newborns for Pot?

Health & Wellness  (tags: americans, babies, family, government, New Born Testing, marijuana, medicine, research, safety, science, society, study )

- 2028 days ago -
Screen-positive cannabinoid results from infant samples should not be reported without confirmation or appropriate consultation, because they cannot currently be interpreted."

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Kit B (276)
Friday November 30, 2012, 6:12 am
(photo credit:

Employees at US hospitals are testing more and more newborns for cannabis exposure. And, with alarming frequency, they are getting the wrong results. So say a pair of recent studies documenting the unreliability of infant drug testing.

In the most recent trial, published in the September edition of the Journal of Clinical Chemistry, investigators at the University of Utah School of Medicine evaluated the rate of unconfirmed "positive" immunoassay test results in infant and non-infant urine samples over a 52-week period. Shockingly, authors found that positive tests for carboxy THC, a byproduct of THC screened for in immunoassay urine tests, were 59 times less likely to be confirmed in infant urine specimens as compared to non-infant urine samples. Overall, 47 percent of the infant positive immunoassay urine samples evaluated did not test for the presence of carboxy THC when confirmatory assay measures were later performed.

Immunoassay testing – the standard technology used in workplace drug testing – relies on the use of antibodies (proteins that will react to a particular substance or a group of very similar substances) to document whether a specific reaction occurs. Therefore, a positive result on an immunoassay test presumes that a certain quantity of a particular substance may be present in the sample, but it does not actually identify the presence of the substance itself. A more specific chemical test, known as chromatography, must be performed in order to confirm any preliminary analytical test results. Samples that test positive on the presumptive immunoassay test, but then later test negative on the confirmatory test are known as false positives.

False positive test results for cannabis’ carboxy THC metabolite are relatively uncommon in adult specimens. Among newborns’ specimens, however, false positive results for alleged cannabis exposure are disturbingly prevalent.

In April, researchers at the University of North Carolina reported in the journal Clinical Biochemistry that various chemicals present in various baby wash products, such as Johnson's Head-to-Toe Baby Wash and CVS Baby Wash, frequently cross-react with the immunoassay test to cause false positive results for carboxy THC.

“[The] addition of Head-to-Toe Baby Wash to drug-free urine produced a dose dependent measureable response in the THC immunoassay,” the investigators concluded. “Addition of other commercially available baby soaps gave similar results, and subsequent testing identified specific chemical surfactants that reacted with the THC immunoassay. … Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions.”

Following the publication of the UNC study, researchers at the University of Utah screened for the presence of baby soap contaminants in infant urine. Surprisingly, they didn’t find any. Rather, they concluded that the disproportionately high rate of false positive test results discovered among their samples were the result of a cross-reaction with some other yet-to-be determined constituent. They cautioned: “Until the compounds contributing to positive urine screen results in infants are identified, we encourage the use of alternative specimens for the detection and investigation of neonatal exposure to cannabinoids. Screen-positive cannabinoid results from infant samples should not be reported without confirmation or appropriate consultation, because they cannot currently be interpreted.”

Yet despite these warnings, in many instances, hospitals fail to confirm the results of presumptive drug tests prior to reporting them to state authorities. (Because confirmatory testing is more expensive the immunoassay testing, many hospitals neglect to send such presumptive positive urine samples to outside labs for follow-up analysis.) Ironically, such confirmatory tests are required for all hospital employees who test positive for illicit substances. But presently, no such guidelines stipulate that similar precautions be taken for newborns or pregnant mothers. Explains Lynn Paltrow, executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women: “NAPW has had calls from numerous parents who were subjected to intrusive, threatening, and counterproductive child welfare interventions based on false or innocent positive test results for marijuana. We have learned that pregnant patients receive fewer guarantees of accuracy than do job applicants at that same hospital.”

Regardless of whether or not the drug screen results are confirmed, the sanctions for those subjects who test positive are often swift and severe. Typically, any report of alleged infant exposure to cannabis will trigger a host of serious consequences ranging from the involvement of social services to accusations of child endangerment or neglect. In some instances, mothers whose infants test positive for carboxy THC will lose temporary child custody rights and be mandated to attend a drug treatment program. In other instances they may be civilly prosecuted. At least 18 states address the issue of pregnant women’s drug use in their civil child neglect laws; in 12 states prenatal exposure to any illegal drug is defined by statute as civil child abuse. (One state, South Carolina, authorizes the criminal prosecution of mothers who are alleged to have consumed cannabis, or any other illicit substance, during pregnancy and carry their baby to term.)

Of further concern is the reality that the hospital staff’s decision to drug test infants or pregnant mothers appears to be largely a subjective one. There are no national standards delineating specific criteria for the drug testing of pregnant women, new mothers, or their infants. In fact, the only federal government panel ever convened to advise on the practice urged against its adoption. As a result, race and class largely influence who is tested and who isn’t. A study published in the Journal of Women's Health reported that "black women and their newborns were 1.5 times more likely to be tested for illicit drugs as non-black women," after controlling for obstetrical conditions and socio-demographic factors, such as single marital status or a lack of health insurance. A separate study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported similar rates of illicit drug consumption during pregnancy among both black and white women, but found that “black women were reported [to health authorities] at approximately 10 times the rate for white women.”

How many mothers have been accused of child neglect or abuse because of false positive drug test results? Nobody knows for sure. But no doubt some mothers have been penalized solely as a result of the test’s inherent fallibility – and many more are likely to face similar sanctions in the future. That’s because the practice of drug testing infants for cannabis exposure remains a relatively popular even though there exists limited, if any, evidence to justify it.

“No child-health expert would characterize recreational drug use during pregnancy as a good idea,” writes columnist Maia Szalavitz. “But it’s not at all clear that the benefits, if any, of newborn marijuana screening – particularly given how selectively the tests are administered – justify the potential harm it can cause to families.”

Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform agrees, telling that the emotional damage caused by removing an infant child from their mothers, as well as the risk of abuse inherent to foster care, far outweigh any risks to the child that may be caused by maternal marijuana use during pregnancy.

In fact, the potential health effects of maternal marijuana use on infant birth weight and early development have been subject to scientific scrutiny for several decades. One of the earliest and most often cited studies on the topic comes from Dr. Melanie Dreher and colleagues, who assessed neonatal outcomes in Jamaica, where it is customary for many women to ingest cannabis, often in tea, during pregnancy to combat symptoms of morning sickness. Writing in the journal Pediatrics in 1994, Dreher and colleagues reported no significant physical or psychological differences in newborns of heavy marijuana-using mothers at three days old, and found that exposed children performed better on a variety of physiological and autonomic tests than non-exposed children at 30 days. (This latter trend was suggested to have been a result of the socio-economic status of the mothers rather than a result of pre-natal pot exposure.)

Separate population studies have reported similar results. A 2002 survey of 12,060 British women reported, “[C]annabis use during pregnancy was unrelated to risk of perinatal death or need for special care.” Researchers added that “frequent or regular use” of cannabis throughout pregnancy may be associated with “small but statistically detectable decrements in birthweight.” However, the association between cannabis use and birthweight failed to be statistically significant after investigators adjusted for confounding factors such as the mothers' age, pre-pregnancy weight, and the self-reported use of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and other illicit drugs.”

A 1999 survey of 12,885 Dutch mothers reported similar findings after controlling for maternal tobacco use. “The use of cannabis is not a major prognostic factor regarding the outcome of pregnancy,” the authors concluded. A 1997 meta-analysis of 32,483 mothers published in the journal Addiction also reported, “There is inadequate evidence that cannabis, at the amount typically consumed by pregnant women, causes low birth weight.” Most recently, a 2010 population-based study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported similar outcomes. Investigators with the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities surveyed mothers who delivered live-born infants without birth defects between 1997 and 2004. After adjustment for potential confounding factors, researchers concluded that “cannabis use was not associated with mean birth weight or gestational age or with low birth weight or preterm delivery.”

Longitudinal data assessing the potential impact of pre-natal cannabis exposure on a child’s neurobehavioral and cognitive functioning is less definitive. While some studies have reported an adverse association between frequent prenatal marijuana exposure and childhood intellectual development, particularly in the realm of "executive functioning," other studies evaluating less frequent maternal marijuana use have reported no such deficits in infant development or increased risk of psychiatric disorders. Further complicating interpretation of this data is that researchers are typically unable to determine whether these outcomes are the result of cannabis exposure or other pre-natal or post-natal environmental factors. However, among the studies reporting a potential adverse association, authors often affirm these effects tend to be subtle and that they are far less significant than those outcomes associated with the maternal use of alcohol or tobacco.

“Based on my 30 plus years of experience examining the newborn, infants, toddlers, children, adolescents and young adults born to women who used marijuana during pregnancy it is important to emphasize that to characterize an infant born to a woman who used marihuana during pregnancy as being ‘physically abused’ and/or ‘neglected’ is contrary to all scientific evidence,” wrote Canadian researcher Peter Fried – one of the world’s foremost experts on the effects of social use of alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana during pregnancy – in a 2009 affidavit, excerpted on the NAPW Web site. “The use of marijuana during pregnancy (in the absence of other factors that may put a child at risk for physical abuse and/or neglect) has not been shown by any objective research to result in abuse or neglect.”

Nonetheless, this lack of hard data demonstrating definitive dangers associated with the intermittent maternal use of cannabis has not stopped others in the field from proclaiming that any infant exposure to cannabinoids may lead to a variety of unproven detrimental outcomes, including childhood hyperactivity and sudden infant death syndrome. (In reality, preclinical studies have documented that the activation of cannabis receptors as well as the production of the endogenous cannabinoids are essential for proper prenatal and post-natal development, in particular the stimulation of appetite and proper digestion.) Such claims have no doubt fostered the present environment whereby stiff legal penalties and/or the loss of parental rights exist for mothers who are alleged to have consumed cannabis during pregnancy. Moreover, child protective services are also now proactively removing children from the homes of families who use cannabis – even in cases where the parent’s use is in compliance with state law. And in at least one state, Arizona, pediatric groups are seeking additional legislation to “prevent pregnant women from receiving recommendations for marijuana; require physicians who recommend marijuana to ask patients if they are pregnant; and require women to submit to pregnancy tests when seeking [medicinal cannabis] recommendations.”

Overkill? Absolutely, warns Wexler. “[T]here is no evidence that smoking pot endangers children [and] there is overwhelming evidence that needless foster care endangers children.”

Nonetheless, as long as most states, and the federal government in particular, continue to define cannabis as a Schedule I prohibited substance, one can expect that state regulators, prosecutors and hospital staff will continue to overzealously and selectively target suspected marijuana consuming mothers and their children – regardless of whether such interventions are scientifically warranted or in the best interest of the child.
For more detailed information, please check links within the article at Visit Site****

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML | alternet |

JL A (281)
Friday November 30, 2012, 11:55 am
What's really scary is that the mothers could have been reported to law enforcement or CPS and become separated from their babies based on this unreliable so-called 'evidence'--and such early separation can have long term negative impacts on the baby and mother-child relationship since it would interfere with healthy bonding.

Kathy Chadwell (354)
Friday November 30, 2012, 2:04 pm
Nothing surprises me anymore after I found out about this. How many are aware of this? It all scares me.

Yvonne White (229)
Friday November 30, 2012, 2:43 pm
WTF??!!!! Why are they testing anyone without consent or probable cause any way??? They rarely do Helpful tests without dragging feet & getting Insurance "permission", yet they WASTE taxpayers' money doing frivilous Junk Tests that aren't reliable to begin with?!

. (0)
Friday November 30, 2012, 3:04 pm
Thanks Kit- informative, yet scary article about the state of health care in this country.

cecily w (0)
Friday November 30, 2012, 5:43 pm
If the test results aren't reliable, the tests shouldn't be performed. If people (or their legal guardians, in this case mothers of newborns) do not give consent the tests shouldn't be performed. It's an expensive lose-lose situation.

S G (29)
Friday November 30, 2012, 6:06 pm
This is ridiculous and scary!!

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 2:21 am
Thanks for this great article.

Jim P (3257)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 5:42 am
The scientists should be testing newborns predisposed for idiocity as those found
in the current crop of g o p pukes and teabaggers.

Maybe testing for a predisposition to idiotic testing for maryjane, terrorism and so on...


Ty, Kit.

mag.w.d. Aichberger (34)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 5:47 am
Because Psychedelics (i go along with e.g. Petzer Stafford in classifying THC as a (minor)psychedelic) DO cause psychotic behavior -- virtually only in those who have never and would never take them.

paul m (93)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 6:11 am


Mary Donnelly (47)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 1:39 pm
Thanks for illuminating post. The testing needs to be improved, or abandoned.

Barbara Goheen (0)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 2:08 pm
This is ridiculous and scary!!

Sharon W. (4)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 4:18 pm
Why are people even tested without their consent? Plus, THC does not have any mind-altering effect with children as they lack the carriers!

Vallee R (280)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 4:19 pm
Iused to be a foster care social worker - this is ridiculous!

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 4:27 pm
Noted. Thanks, Kit. I believe the tests are being done for the profit of the testing companies. I recently read that one of these companies in FL is routinely wrong on their test results, as they are manufacturing these tests cheaply without oversight. Always follow the money.
I agree this testing is beyond ridiculous as well. So many false positives. I'm aware that many over-the-counter drugs taken in pregnancy can cause birth defects, as well as low birth weight.

marie C (163)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 4:45 pm
Notd thanks Kit

James Merit (144)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 7:15 pm
Wow, scary!

Past Member (0)
Saturday December 1, 2012, 11:21 pm
This seems nuts and is utterly crazy. Stop it now.

reft h (66)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 12:09 am
why are they using a test that has so many false positives. I'm surprised someone hasn't taken them to court over it yet.

Karen R (87)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 7:57 am
what's the point?

Past Member (0)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 1:02 pm
'How many mothers have been accused of child neglect or abuse because of false positive drug test results? Nobody knows for sure. But no doubt some mothers have been penalized solely as a result of the test’s inherent fallibility – and many more are likely to face similar sanctions in the future. That’s because the practice of drug testing infants for cannabis exposure remains a relatively popular even though there exists limited, if any, evidence to justify it.'


Kathlene Lentz (30)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 1:26 pm
Ridiculous and unnecessary intrusion into the private lives of parents everywhere.

Rose Becke (141)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 3:58 pm
I am speechless Thanks Kit

Sheila D (28)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 4:44 pm
I'm wondering how many of the nurses, doctors, and technicians are on drugs, legal or illegal. There are several states that are arresting women for taking drugs when pregnant, ever if they are prescribed. This is part of the "war on women" the GOP say isn't really happening. Going to court may be the only way to stop the madness. Legalizing marijuana would be a plus, too. Thanks for the article Kit.

Parvez Zuberi (7)
Sunday December 2, 2012, 10:08 pm
Thanks for thought provoking article

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday December 3, 2012, 7:18 am
It's just another money grab to feed a degenerate system.

Past Member (0)
Monday December 3, 2012, 9:14 am
Cannabinoids, like those found in marijuana, occur naturally in human breast milk.

(NaturalNews) Woven into the fabric of the human body is an intricate system of proteins known as cannabinoid receptors that are specifically designed to process cannabinoids such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the primary active components of marijuana. And it turns out, based on the findings of several major scientific studies, that human breast milk naturally contains many of the same cannabinoids found in marijuana, which are actually extremely vital for proper human development.

Cell membranes in the body are naturally equipped with these cannabinoid receptors which, when activated by cannabinoids and various other nutritive substances, protect cells against viruses, harmful bacteria, cancer, and other malignancies. And human breast milk is an abundant source of endocannabinoids, a specific type of neuromodulatory lipid that basically teaches a newborn child how to eat by stimulating the suckling process.

If it were not for these cannabinoids in breast milk, newborn children would not know how to eat, nor would they necessarily have the desire to eat, which could result in severe malnourishment and even death. Believe it or not, the process is similar to how adult individuals who smoke pot get the "munchies," as newborn children who are breastfed naturally receive doses of cannabinoids that trigger hunger and promote growth and development.

"[E]ndocannabinoids have been detected in maternal milk and activation of CB1 (cannabinoid receptor type 1) receptors appears to be critical for milk sucking ... apparently activating oral-motor musculature," says the abstract of a 2004 study on the endocannabinoid receptor system that was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology.

"The medical implications of these novel developments are far reaching and suggest a promising future for cannabinoids in pediatric medicine for conditions including 'non-organic failure-to-thrive' and cystic fibrosis."

Studies on cannabinoids in breast milk help further demystify the truth about marijuana.

There are two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body -- the CB1 variety which exists in the brain, and the CB2 variety which exists in the immune system and throughout the rest of the body. Each one of these receptors responds to cannabinoids, whether it be from human breast milk in children, or from juiced marijuana, for instance, in adults.

This essentially means that the human body was built for cannabinoids, as these nutritive substances play a critical role in protecting cells against disease, boosting immune function, protecting the brain and nervous system, and relieving pain and disease-causing inflammation, among other things. And because science is finally catching up in discovering how this amazing cannabinoid system works, the stigma associated with marijuana use is, thankfully, in the process of being eliminated.

In another study on the endocannabinoids published in the journal Pharmacological Reviews back in 2006, researchers from the Laboratory of Physiologic Studies at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism uncovered even more about the benefits of cannabinoids. These include their ability to promote proper energy metabolism and appetite regulation, treat metabolic disorders, treat multiple sclerosis, and prevent neurodegeneration, among many other conditions.

With literally thousands of published studies now showing their safety and usefulness, cannabinoids, and particularly marijuana from which it is largely derived, truly are a health-promoting "super" nutrient with virtually unlimited potential in health promotion and disease prevention.

Be sure to check out how juicing raw marijuana leaves, which contain a diverse array of health-promoting cannabinoids, is an excellent non-psychoactive way to prevent and treat a host of diseases, including cancer:


Helle H (21)
Monday December 3, 2012, 3:56 pm
This sounds stupid to me.

Diane L (110)
Monday December 3, 2012, 10:01 pm
Testing infants for CANNABIS exposure has to be THE dumbest thing ever. Newborns obviously do not smoke pot, nor can they eat edibles available as "medical marijuana". THC lasts in the body for up to 30 days after "use", depending on the amount and frequency OF use, so what is the point of testing an INFANT? If the pregnant Mom comes in obviously under the influence, test her, but then maybe she smoked it to ease labor pains, what a concept!

Gloria picchetti (304)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 4:27 am
What kind of creepy Big Brother society are we living in? It's a nightmare.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 6:48 am
Marijuana / Cannabis Use In Pregnancy – Dr. Melanie Dreher

'A landmark study conducted in the 1990s by medical anthropologist Dr. Dreher, (co-author of the book Women and Cannabis: Medicine, Science, and Sociology), gave the medical world a different insight into the use of marijuana by pregnant women in Jamaica. Dreher found that marijuana was being used in a cultural and medical context, as a way to relieve morning sickness or nausea, prevent depression and fatigue, and improve appetites. Her team observed both the mothers who used marijuana and their infants; they reported that there were no signs of birth defects or of behavioral problems in the marijuana-exposed children either during the month after birth or even several years after.'


Devon Leonar (54)
Thursday December 6, 2012, 10:01 am
Thanx for this post Kit. This is outrageous .............

mag.w.d. Aichberger (34)
Wednesday December 12, 2012, 6:58 am
(better late than never, PS:)

Cannabis is one of humankinds best and oldest friends. It comes pretty close to a "cure-all", as it tends to enhance mind-body communication and relationship. In all likelyhood, sensible(*) use of THC during pregnancy in most cases is probably advisable and certainly not as detrimental as many commonly ingested food (&drink) items, let alone all those commonly ingested (prescribed or not) drugs. -- just my personal educated opinion, having *studied* chemistry (&pharmacology, &psychology, &drugs)

*) 'sesible' here would certainly include: NOT mixed with tobacco, not in combination with alcohol or any stimulant, not followed by a big mac...

btw: Queen Victoria('s court) --usually not considered hippies-- was also using Hashish, e.g. for relieving menstrual discomforts; and they ordered it by the pound

Diane L (110)
Thursday December 13, 2012, 1:45 am
I agree, Frack Who knows, maybe if Kate Middleton smoked, she might not have ended up in the hospital with acute mornng sickness. Maybe the nurse who killed herself would still be alive, or at least wouldn't have been involved with Kate's being a patient.

If I had smoked during my pregnancy (the 2nd one), maybe I wouldn't have needed shots to prevent miscarriage and maybe my son who was born with ADHD wouldn't have had so many issues. I'm still totally convinced that the hormone shots that I was given contributed to that condition with him.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Health & Wellness

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.