Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol delays the gastric emptying of solid food in humans: a double-blind, randomized study

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999 Jan;13(1):77-80. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2036.1999.00441.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiemetics / pharmacology*
  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Food*
  • Gastric Emptying / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nausea / prevention & control
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Reference Values
  • Technetium
  • Time Factors
  • Vomiting / prevention & control


  • Antiemetics
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium
  • Dronabinol