Marijuana, Opioid, and Alcohol Use Among Pregnant and Postpartum Individuals Living With HIV in the US

JAMA Netw Open. 2021 Dec 1;4(12):e2137162. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.37162.


Importance: Amid the opioid epidemic and evolving legal and social changes with marijuana, little is known about substance use among pregnant and postpartum people living with HIV.

Objectives: To evaluate trends in marijuana, alcohol, and opioid use during pregnancy and the first year postpartum among US people living with HIV and the differences in substance use based on marijuana legalization status.

Design, setting, and participants: Data from the Surveillance Monitoring for Antiretroviral Toxicities (SMARTT) study of the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study were analyzed. SMARTT-enrolled, pregnant people living with HIV at 22 US sites from January 1, 2007, to July 1, 2019, with self-reported substance use data available in pregnancy, 1 year postpartum, or both were assessed.

Exposures: Calendar year and state marijuana legalization status.

Main outcomes and measures: The prevalence of any use of each of the following substances was calculated by calendar year, separately for pregnancy and postpartum: marijuana, alcohol, opioid, and concomitant alcohol and marijuana. Log binomial models were fit using general estimating equations to evaluate the mean annual change, accounting for repeat pregnancies. The study also evaluated differences in substance use by state recreational or medical marijuana legalization status.

Results: Substance use data were available for 2926 pregnancies from 2310 people living with HIV (mean [SD] age, 28.8 [6.1] years; 822 [28.1%] Hispanic, 1859 [63.5%] non-Hispanic Black, 185 [6.3%] White, 24 [0.8%] of more than 1 race, 24 [0.8%] of other race or ethnicity [individuals who identified as American Indian, Asian, or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander], and 12 [0.4%] with unknown or unreported race or ethnicity). Between 2007 and 2019, marijuana use during pregnancy increased from 7.1% to 11.7%, whereas alcohol and opioid use in pregnancy were unchanged. Postpartum alcohol (44.4%), marijuana (13.6%), and concomitant alcohol and marijuana (10.0%) use were common; marijuana use increased from 10.2% to 23.7% from 2007 to 2019, whereas postpartum alcohol use was unchanged. The adjusted mean risk of marijuana use increased by 7% (95% CI, 3%-10%) per year during pregnancy and 11% (95% CI, 7%-16%) per year postpartum. Postpartum concomitant alcohol and marijuana use increased by 10% (95% CI, 5%-15%) per year. Differences in substance use were not associated with recreational legalization, but increased marijuana use was associated with medical marijuana legalization.

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study, opioid use among pregnant people living with HIV remained stable, whereas marijuana use during pregnancy and postpartum increased over time and in states with legalized medical marijuana. These patterns of increasing marijuana use among pregnant and postpartum people living with HIV suggest that enhanced clinical attention is warranted, given the potential maternal and child health implications of substance use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Cannabis
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid