The pharmacokinetics of THC in fat and brain: resulting functional responses to marihuana smoking

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2001 Apr;16(3):247-255. doi: 10.1002/hup.258.


A pleasant sensory perception (PSP), the high of THC or of marihuana consumption, is a consistent functional response to this drug only manifested by man, and which occurs concurrently with an increased heart rate. However, it has not been possible to relate consistently magnitude and duration of these functional markers to THC plasma concentration, whatever the route of administration. A re-analysis of all the available clinical and experimental data reporting the pharmacokinetics and storage of THC in tissues in function of time, have indicated that the discrepancies between functional responses and plasma molecular THC concentration may be accounted for by the pharmacokinetics of THC. The instant uptake and unlimited storage of THC by neutral fat limits the molecular concentration of the drug present in the plasma to a level which does not exceed 6 x 10(14) molecules/ml. The physicochemical nature of the membrane lipid bilayer (of the blood-brain barrier) will restrict the access of THC into the bilayer receptors and its: reactive enzymes. The PSP and increased heart rate of marihuana is correlated with the molecular concentration of THC in the bilayer (blood-brain barrier) of the order of 10(12)-10(14) molecules/ml. This number in turn would be related to the number of functional THC receptor sites in the lipid bilayer. THC would exert its functional properties on PSP and heart rate through a molecular transmission to specific receptor site and bilipid layer physicochemical interations. Rapid uptake and slow release of THC in fat associated with a rate-limited uptake into brain may be a general philogenetic mechanism which would protect brain function from prolonged exposure to xenobiotics like THC and other fat soluble drugs. Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.