Introduction: In recent research, orally administered cannabidiol (CBD) showed a relatively high incidence of somnolence in a pediatric population. Previous work has suggested that when CBD is exposed to an acidic environment, it degrades to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other psychoactive cannabinoids. To gain a better understanding of quantitative exposure, we completed an in vitro study by evaluating the formation of psychoactive cannabinoids when CBD is exposed to simulated gastric fluid (SGF). Methods: Materials included synthetic CBD, Δ8-THC, and Δ9-THC. Linearity was demonstrated for each component over the concentration range used in this study. CBD was spiked into media containing 1% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS). Samples were analyzed using chromatography with UV and mass spectrometry detection. An assessment time of 3 h was chosen as representative of the maximal duration of exposure to gastric fluid. Results: CBD in SGF with 1% SDS was degraded about 85% after 60 min and more than 98% at 120 min. The degradation followed first-order kinetics at a rate constant of -0.031 min-1 (R2=0.9933). The major products formed were Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC with less significant levels of other related cannabinoids. CBD in physiological buffer performed as a control did not convert to THC. Confirmation of THC formation was demonstrated by comparison of mass spectral analysis, mass identification, and retention time of Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC in the SGF samples against authentic reference standards. Conclusions: SGF converts CBD into the psychoactive components Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC. The first-order kinetics observed in this study allowed estimated levels to be calculated and indicated that the acidic environment during normal gastrointestinal transit can expose orally CBD-treated patients to levels of THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids that may exceed the threshold for a physiological response. Delivery methods that decrease the potential for formation of psychoactive cannabinoids should be explored.
Keywords: THC; cannabidiol; degredation; drug discovery; gastric fluid; kinetics.