Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of supratherapeutic oral doses of Δ(9) -THC in cannabis users

J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Jul;53(7):680-90. doi: 10.1002/jcph.90. Epub 2013 Jun 10.


Oral Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9) -THC) has been evaluated as a medication for cannabis dependence, but repeated administration of acute oral doses up to 40 mg has not been effective at reducing drug-taking behavior. Larger doses might be necessary to affect cannabis use. The purpose of the present study was therefore to determine the physiological and behavioural effects of oral Δ(9) -THC at acute doses higher than those tested previously. The pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of oral Δ(9) -THC, administered in ascending order in 15 mg increments across separate sessions, up to a maximum of 90 mg, was determined in seven cannabis users. Five subjects received all doses and two experienced untoward side effects at lower doses. Δ(9) -THC produced a constellation of effects consistent with previous clinical studies. Low cannabinoid concentrations were associated with significant effects on drug-sensitive measures, although progressively greater levels did not lead to proportionately larger drug effects. Considerable variability in Cmax and tmax was observed. Doses of oral Δ(9) -THC larger than those tested previously can be administered to individuals with a history of cannabis use, although given the pharmacokinetic variability of oral Δ(9) -THC and individual differences in sensitivity, individualized dose adjustment is needed to avoid side effects and maximize therapeutic response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cannabis / adverse effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dronabinol / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / drug therapy*
  • Marijuana Abuse / metabolism*
  • Young Adult


  • Dronabinol