Subjective and physiological effects, and expired carbon monoxide concentrations in frequent and occasional cannabis smokers following smoked, vaporized, and oral cannabis administration

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Jun 1;175:67-76. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.02.003. Epub 2017 Mar 29.

Abstract

Background: Although smoking is the most common cannabis administration route, vaporization and consumption of cannabis edibles are common. Few studies directly compare cannabis' subjective and physiological effects following multiple administration routes.

Methods: Subjective and physiological effects, and expired carbon monoxide (CO) were evaluated in frequent and occasional cannabis users following placebo (0.001% Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]), smoked, vaporized, and oral cannabis (6.9% THC, ∼54mg).

Results: Participants' subjective ratings were significantly elevated compared to placebo after smoking and vaporization, while only occasional smokers' ratings were significantly elevated compared to placebo after oral dosing. Frequent smokers' maximum ratings were significantly different between inhaled and oral routes, while no differences in occasional smokers' maximum ratings between active routes were observed. Additionally, heart rate increases above baseline 0.5h after smoking (mean 12.2bpm) and vaporization (10.7bpm), and at 1.5h (13.0bpm) and 3h (10.2bpm) after oral dosing were significantly greater than changes after placebo, with no differences between frequent and occasional smokers. Finally, smoking produced significantly increased expired CO concentrations 0.25-6h post-dose compared to vaporization.

Conclusions: All participants had significant elevations in subjective effects after smoking and vaporization, but only occasional smokers after oral cannabis, indicating partial tolerance to subjective effects with frequent exposure. There were no differences in occasional smokers' maximum subjective ratings across the three active administration routes. Vaporized cannabis is an attractive alternative for medicinal administrations over smoking or oral routes; effects occur quickly and doses can be titrated with minimal CO exposure. These results have strong implications for safety and abuse liability assessments.

Keywords: Cannabis; Carbon monoxide; Edibles; Heart rate; Subjective effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests
  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / metabolism*
  • Marijuana Smoking / physiopathology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Mental Processes / drug effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Carbon Monoxide