Combined effects of acute, very-low-dose ethanol and delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy human volunteers

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2011 Feb;97(4):627-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.11.013. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Rationale: Previous studies examining the combined effects of ethanol and cannabis, or its primary psychoactive ingredient, ∆⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have provided mixed results. Data from an in vitro study suggests that combined, sub-threshold doses of these drugs may interact to produce synergistic effects. Very low doses of the two drugs in combination have not been tested in humans.

Materials and methods: This study assessed whether combinations of acute, very low doses of ethanol and THC produce synergistic effects on subjective, cognitive, and physiological measures. Healthy volunteers (n=11) received capsules containing placebo or THC (2.5 mg), and beverages containing placebo or ethanol (0.1 and 0.2 g/kg) alone, and in combination, across separate sessions, in a within-subjects, randomized, double-blind design. During each session, participants completed measures of working memory, psychomotor ability, and simple reaction time, and provided subjective mood and drug effect ratings. Cardiovascular measures were obtained at regular intervals.

Results: As intended, when administered alone, these very low doses of ethanol and THC had only moderate effects on isolated measures. The combined effects of these drugs were not synergistic, and in some cases appeared to be less-than-additive.

Conclusions: Our data provide no evidence for synergistic effects of acute combinations of very-low-dose ethanol and THC on subjective or physiologic response, or on cognitive performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Placebos
  • Reference Values


  • Placebos
  • Ethanol
  • Dronabinol