The dose effects of short-term dronabinol (oral THC) maintenance in daily cannabis users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Feb 1;128(1-2):64-70. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.08.001. Epub 2012 Aug 22.


Background: Prior studies have separately examined the effects of dronabinol (oral THC) on cannabis withdrawal, cognitive performance, and the acute effects of smoked cannabis. A single study examining these clinically relevant domains would benefit the continued evaluation of dronabinol as a potential medication for the treatment of cannabis use disorders.

Methods: Thirteen daily cannabis smokers completed a within-subject crossover study and received 0, 30, 60 and 120mg dronabinol per day for 5 consecutive days. Vital signs and subjective ratings of cannabis withdrawal, craving and sleep were obtained daily; outcomes under active dose conditions were compared to those obtained under placebo dosing. On the 5th day of medication maintenance, participants completed a comprehensive cognitive performance battery and then smoked five puffs of cannabis for subjective effects evaluation. Each dronabinol maintenance period occurred in a counterbalanced order and was separated by 9 days of ad libitum cannabis use.

Results: Dronabinol dose-dependently attenuated cannabis withdrawal and resulted in few adverse side effects or decrements in cognitive performance. Surprisingly, dronabinol did not alter the subjective effects of smoked cannabis, but cannabis-induced increases in heart rate were attenuated by the 60 and 120mg doses.

Conclusions: Dronabinol's ability to dose-dependently suppress cannabis withdrawal may be therapeutically beneficial to individuals trying to stop cannabis use. The absence of gross cognitive impairment or side effects in this study supports safety of doses up to 120mg/day. Continued evaluation of dronabinol in targeted clinical studies of cannabis treatment, using an expanded range of doses, is warranted.

Trial registration: NCT00893074.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep / drug effects
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*


  • Dronabinol

Associated data