Background: Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active constituent of marijuana, is an effective agent in the prevention of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
Aim: To determine the effect of THC on gastric emptying of a radiolabelled solid food in humans.
Methods: Thirteen healthy volunteers underwent gastric emptying studies after receiving THC and placebo in a randomized double-blind fashion on 2 separate days. THC, at a dose of 10 mg/m2 of body surface area, or placebo were administered.
Results: Gastric emptying after THC was slower than placebo in all subjects. Mean percentage of isotope remaining in the stomach was significantly greater than after placebo from 30 min (85.5 +/- 4.3% vs. 94.2 +/- 1. 4% placebo and THC, respectively, P < 0.05) to 120 min (45.6 +/- 7. 2% vs. 73.9 +/- 7.1% placebo and THC, respectively, P < 0.001) after the test meal. No correlation was found between plasma THC levels and the delay in gastric emptying.
Conclusions: THC at a dose used for preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting significantly delays gastric emptying of solid food in humans. Therefore, the anti-emetic property of THC may be mediated through the central nervous system.