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2023 Study: CBD Repairs Brain in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Updated: Feb 7

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A February 2023 study entitled "Cannabidiol Repairs Behavioral and Brain Disturbances in a Model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder" that was published in the journal Pharmacological Research explored "the effects of early and chronic cannabidiol (CBD) administration on offspring with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)."

The study explained that perinatal alcohol exposure (PAE) "is one of the most prevalent and avoidable risk factors for long-lasting somatic, behavioral, and neurological abnormalities." A fetus that is exposed to alcohol displays a range of effects, including "impaired mental functions, emotional disturbances, and poorer memory."

"Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) often results in anatomical malformation and impairments of both cognitive and behavioral functions."

The study's authors noted that the most severe form of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which often results in anatomical malformation and impairments of both cognitive and behavioral functions.

Understanding Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The Mayo Clinic defines fetal alcohol syndrome as "a condition in a child that results from alcohol exposure during the mother's pregnancy" and that it typically produces brain damage and growth issues. The famous clinic noted that the defects caused by FAS are permanent and not reversible.

It reported that these defects caused by FAS may include the following:

  • Distinctive facial features, including small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper lip, a short upturned nose, and a smooth skin surface between the nose and upper lip

  • Deformities of joints, limbs, and fingers

  • Slow physical growth before and after birth

  • Vision difficulties or hearing problems

  • Small head circumference and brain size

  • Heart defects and problems with kidneys and bones"

FAS Statistics

According to studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that about one in 1,000 live births "in certain areas of the United States" features FAS. "The most recent CDC study analyzed medical and other records and found FAS in 0.3 out of 1,000 children from seven to nine years of age," reported the organization.

According to the CDC, one in 1,000 live births "in certain areas of the United States" feature FAS.

However, the CDC reports that other studies involving in-person assessment of school-age children in the U.S. report more disturbing figures involving six to nine out of 1,000 children displaying FAS. A series of National Institutes of Health studies involving physical examinations indicate that the occurrence of FAS in the U.S. and Western European nations "might number as high as one to five per 100 school children," representing an alarming one to five percent of the population.

The Study

This scientific investigation involved 190 rodent (mouse) test subjects that produced 120 offspring (60 males and 60 females). Female mice were "exposed to voluntary ethanol consumption in a two-bottle choice paradigm." The amount of alcohol (ethanol) and water consumed was "carefully measured and renewed daily." The study reported that ethanol volumes consumed were "calculated individually for each mouse."

Each day, the mice would receive 30 mg/kg of body weight of CBD or placebo. After five weeks of treatment, the test subjects were evaluated for behavioral differences. The scientists analyzed "anxiety, depressive-like behaviors, and cognitive alterations."


The study observed that the rodent subjects with FAS that received "early and chronic administration of CBD" experienced significant improvements in "behavioral and neurobiological alterations found in mice exposed to a model of FASD."

The research revealed that both male and female mice exposed to ethanol during fetal development displayed "significant anxiogenic [anxiety causing] and depressive-like behaviors and emotional hyperreactivity," all of which were "restored with the CBD administration." In addition, the study revealed that the FAS mouse subjects gained improvements in cognitive disturbances from CBD, but that this was more common in males.

"FAS mouse subjects gained improvements in cognitive disturbances from CBD."

The study's authors determined that their data and results were consistent with those reported by earlier studies. However, they noted that earlier investigations did not observe sex-dependent differences in CBD's actions, as was found in the present research.

Reported the study: "To our knowledge, this is the first animal study revealing that early and chronic CBD administration normalizes FASD model-induced anxiety, depressive-like behaviors, and emotional hyperreactivity, suggesting the potential usefulness of this drug in the pharmacological management of patients with FASD."

Image courtesy Leafwize Naturals


The scientists concluded that their data and analysis "reveal that the early and chronic administration of CBD repairs the emotional and cognitive alterations observed in male and female mice exposed to the animal model of FASD."

The scientists concluded that "the early and chronic administration of CBD repairs the emotional and cognitive alterations observed in mice exposed to FASD."

The researchers summarized their study by stating that their results "strongly stimulate the possibility of performing clinical trials to evaluate the effects of CBD in children affected with FASD." Despite their pioneering and insightful conclusions, the study's authors stressed that "further studies are required to explore the real implication of this target in CBD's mechanism of action in this model of FASD."

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