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The High Life of Breastfeeding

Motherhood is hard. Marijuana can help.

As more states legalize marijuana and THC becomes more available in friendly, edible forms, more parents are using it to numb the anxiety that comes with raising children. For the one in seven women who develop postpartum depression, THC can be a tempting solution. However, unlike alcohol, which is undetectable in breast milk 2-3 hours per drink after it is consumed, recent research on THC in human milk following cannabis use revealed that traces of THC remain in breast milk even 12 hours from consumption with no clear peak point.

Last month, Washington State University led research published in the Journal of Breastfeeding Medicine, where they observed 20 breastfeeding participants who frequently used cannabis, defined as more than 1 time per week. The women were less than 6 months postpartum, feeding their infants breast milk five or more times per day, and were not using any other illicit drugs. Participants shared a baseline milk sample after 12 or more hours from abstaining from cannabis and five milk samples at set intervals over 8-12 hours after initial cannabis use.

The goal of the study was to understand the life cycle of THC concentrations in human milk, as well as to identify possible associations between the THC concentrations and body mass index (BMI), rate of postpartum weight loss, time postpartum, and the frequency, amount and type of cannabis used. After processing the data, the overarching headline reads: It Depends.

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New York Family


Christians Supplied Medieval Pagans With Horses for Sacrifice

Pagans in northern Europe’s Baltic region imported horses from neighboring Christian countries during the late medieval period to sacrifice in funeral rituals, a study has revealed.

The research, published in the journal Science Advances, analysed the teeth of horses buried in the cemeteries of these communities and discovered that the pagans sourced at least some of the animals from newly Christianized Scandinavia across the Baltic Sea.

This challenges the traditional archaeological consensus that pagan Baltic tribes exclusively sacrificed horses from local breeds, while also casting light on the complex relationship these groups had with Christian communities.

“Our results prove that horses were crossing the Baltic Sea on ships, a level of mobility not previously recognized archaeologically,” the study authors wrote.

“Given the unexpected prevalence of mares, we believe the prestige of the animal, coming from afar was a more important factor in why they were chosen for this rite,” study lead author Katherine French—formerly of Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, now based at Washington State University—said in a press release.

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Archaeo Histories

Tim Kohler to deliver Cordell Lecture

SFI External Professor Tim Kohler (Washington State University) will be delivering the Linda S. Cordell Lecture through the School for Advanced Research (SAR) on April 28, 2024, at the New Mexico History Museum.

In his lecture, Kohler, who recently co-led an SFI working group on “Inequality over the long-term,” will offer an archaeological account of wealth disparity worldwide, including the pre-Hispanic Southwest. His talk, “10,000 Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences,” draws on new data from his Global Dynamics of Inequality (GINI) project.

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Sante Fe Institute

Uncovering Ancient Maya

In the third episode of season three, Mae and Alyssa interview Dr. Rachel Horowitz, assistant professor of anthropology at Washington State University.

Listen in as Dr. Horowitz discusses how Classic Maya communities in Belize made and used chert stone tools, and what analyzing tool production processes can tell us about the ancient economy. Alyssa, Mae, and Dr. Horowitz discuss the broader socio-economic implications of chert quarrying and production and what stone tools can tell us about rituals related to the underworld.

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Are anxiety and depression social problems or chemical disorders?

Two anthropologists question the chemical imbalance theory of mental health disorders.

Twentieth-century science was supposed to change everything. Indeed, thanks to vaccinations, antibiotics, and improved sanitation, humans thrived like never before. Yet in that mix was thrown pharmacological treatments for mental health disorders. On that front, little progress has been made.

It can be argued—it is being argued, in a new paper in American Journal of Physical Anthropology—that we’re regressing in our fight against mental health problems. As Kristen Syme, a PhD student in evolutionary anthropology, and Washington State University anthropology professor Edward Hagen argue, psychopharmacological treatments are increasing alongside mental health disorder diagnoses. If the former worked, the latter would decrease.

There are numerous problems with the current psychiatric model. Journalist Robert Whitaker has laid out the case that antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other pharmacological interventions are the real culprit behind chemical imbalances in the brain—a psychiatric talking point that’s been challenged for over a half-century. Patients suffering from minor anxiety and depression are placed on ineffective drugs, often being placed on a cocktail of pills. With many consumer advocacy groups being funded by pharmaceutical companies, we’ve reached a tipping point in mental health protocols.

As Syme and Hagan write, consumer advocacy groups are not the only compromised organizations. One review of 397 clinical trials discovered 47 percent of these studies reported at least one conflict of interest.

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