Long-term abuse of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive constituent of marijuana, produces behavioral and metabolic signs of frontal cortical dysfunction in humans; these effects persist even after short-term abstinence. Based on a preliminary finding that repeated administration of THC to rats reduces basal frontal cortical dopamine turnover (Jentsch et al.  Neurosci Lett 246:169-172), we further investigated the effects of repeated administrations of THC or WIN 55,212-2 (WIN), a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist, on dopamine turnover in the prefrontal cortex, striatum, and nucleus accumbens. THC or WIN (twice daily for 7 or 14 days) caused a persistent and selective reduction in medial prefrontal cortical dopamine turnover; no significant alterations of dopamine metabolism were observed in the nucleus accumbens or striatum. Importantly, these dopaminergic deficits in the prefrontal cortex were observed after a drug-free period of up to 14 days. Thus, the cognitive dysfunction produced by heavy, long-term cannabis use may be subserved, in part, by drug-induced alterations in frontal cortical dopamine turnover.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.