Delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ8-THC) is a psychotropic cannabinoid produced in low quantities in the cannabis plant. Refinements in production techniques, paired with the availability of inexpensive cannabidiol substrate, have resulted in Δ8-THC being widely marketed as a quasi-legal, purportedly milder alternative to Δ9-THC. Yet, little research has probed the behavioral and physiological effects of repeated Δ8-THC use. The present study aimed to evaluate the effects of acute and repeated exposure to Δ8-THC. We hypothesized that Δ8-THC produces effects similar to Δ9-THC, including signs of drug tolerance and dependence. Adult male and female C57BL/6J mice were treated acutely with Δ8-THC (6.25-100 mg/kg, i.p.) or vehicle and tested in the tetrad battery to quantify cannabimimetic effects (i.e., catalepsy, antinociception, hypothermia, immobility) as compared with a non-selective synthetic cannabinoid (WIN 55,212-2) and Δ9-THC. As previously reported, Δ8-THC (≥12.5 mg/kg) induced cannabimimetic effects. Pretreatment with the CB1 receptor-selective antagonist rimonabant (3 mg/kg, i.p.) blocked each of these effects. In addition, repeated administration of Δ8-THC (50 mg/kg, s.c.) produced tolerance, as well as cross-tolerance to WIN 55,212-2 (10 mg/kg, s.c.) in tetrad, consistent with downregulated CB1 receptor function. Behavioral signs of physical dependence in the somatic signs, tail suspension, and marble burying assays were also observed following rimonabant-precipitated withdrawal from Δ8-THC (≥10 mg/kg BID for 6 days). Lastly, Δ8-THC produced Δ9-THC-like discriminative stimulus effects in both male and female mice. Together, these findings demonstrate that Δ8-THC produces qualitatively similar effects to Δ9-THC, including risk of drug dependence and abuse liability.
Keywords: Cannabis use disorder; Drug dependence; Minor phytocannabinoid; Substance use disorder.
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