The effect of high-dose dronabinol (oral THC) maintenance on cannabis self-administration

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2018 Jun 1:187:254-260. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2018.02.022. Epub 2018 Apr 17.


Background: There is a clear need for advancing the treatment of cannabis use disorders. Prior research has demonstrated that dronabinol (oral THC) can dose-dependently suppress cannabis withdrawal and reduce the acute effects of smoked cannabis. The present study was conducted to evaluate whether high-dose dronabinol could reduce cannabis self-administration among daily users.

Methods: Non-treatment seeking daily cannabis users (N = 13) completed a residential within-subjects crossover study and were administered placebo, low-dose dronabinol (120 mg/day; 40 mg tid), or high-dose dronabinol (180-240 mg/day; 60-80 mg tid) for 12 consecutive days (order counterbalanced). During each 12-day dronabinol maintenance phase, participants were allowed to self-administer smoked cannabis containing <1% THC (placebo) or 5.7% THC (active) under forced-choice (drug vs. money) or progressive ratio conditions.

Results: Participants self-administered significantly more active cannabis compared with placebo in all conditions. When active cannabis was available, self-administration was significantly reduced during periods of dronabinol maintenance compared with placebo maintenance. There was no difference in self-administration between the low- and high-dose dronabinol conditions.

Conclusions: Chronic dronabinol dosing can reduce cannabis self-administration in daily cannabis users and suppress withdrawal symptoms. Cannabinoid agonist medications should continue to be explored for therapeutic utility in the treatment of cannabis use disorders.

Trial registration: NCT00893074.

Keywords: Cannabis; Dronabinol; Marijuana; Pharmacotherapy; THC; Withdrawal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Abuse / diagnosis
  • Marijuana Abuse / drug therapy*
  • Marijuana Abuse / psychology
  • Marijuana Smoking / drug therapy*
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Administration
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Dronabinol

Associated data