Bronchial effects of aerosolized delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in healthy and asthmatic subjects

Am Rev Respir Dis. 1977 Jan;115(1):57-65. doi: 10.1164/arrd.1977.115.1.57.


Effects on airway dynamics, heart rate, and the central nervous system of various doses of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol administered in a random, double blind fashion using a Freon-propelled, metered-dose nebulizer were evaluated in 11 healthy men and 5 asthmatic subjects. Effects of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol were compared with aerosolized placebo and isoproterenol and with 20 mg of oral and smoked delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. In the normal subjects, after 5 to 20 mg of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, specific airway conductance increased immediately, reached a maximum (33 to 41 per cent increase) after 1 to 2 hours, and remained significantly greater than placebo values for 2 to 3 hours. The bronchodilator effect of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol was less than that of isoproterenol after 5 min, but significantly greater than that of isoproterenol after 1 to 3 hours. The magnitude of bronchodilatation after all doses of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol was comparable, but 5 mg of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol caused a significantly smaller increase in heart rate and level of intoxication than the 20-mg dose. Smoked delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol produced greater cardiac and intoxicating effects than either aerosolized or oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Side effects of aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol included slight cough and/or chest discomfort in 3 of the 11 normal subjects. Aerosolized delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol caused significant bronchodilatation in 3 of 5 asthmatic subjects, but caused moderate to severe bronchoconstriction associated with cough and chest discomfort in the other 2. These findings indicate that aerosolized delat9-tetrahydrocannabinol, although capable of causing significant bronchodilatation with minimal systemic side effects, has a local irritating effect on the airways, which may make it unsuitable for therapeutic use.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aerosols
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchi / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dronabinol / administration & dosage
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Isoproterenol / administration & dosage
  • Isoproterenol / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration / drug effects


  • Aerosols
  • Dronabinol
  • Isoproterenol