Hair analysis for cannabinoids is extensively applied in workplace drug testing and in child protection cases, although valid data on incorporation of the main analytical targets, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THC-COOH), into human hair is widely missing. Furthermore, ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THCA-A), the biogenetic precursor of THC, is found in the hair of persons who solely handled cannabis material. In the light of the serious consequences of positive test results the mechanisms of drug incorporation into hair urgently need scientific evaluation. Here we show that neither THC nor THCA-A are incorporated into human hair in relevant amounts after systemic uptake. THC-COOH, which is considered an incontestable proof of THC uptake according to the current scientific doctrine, was found in hair, but was also present in older hair segments, which already grew before the oral THC intake and in sebum/sweat samples. Our studies show that all three cannabinoids can be present in hair of non-consuming individuals because of transfer through cannabis consumers, via their hands, their sebum/sweat, or cannabis smoke. This is of concern for e.g. child-custody cases as cannabinoid findings in a child’s hair may be caused by close contact to cannabis consumers rather than by inhalation of side-stream smoke.
Anecdotally, both acute and chronic cannabis use have been associated with apathy, amotivation, and other reward processing deficits. To date, empirical support for these effects is limited, and no previous studies have assessed both acute effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), as well as associations with cannabis dependence.
- Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
- Published over 7 years ago
The psychoactive component of the cannabis resin and flowers, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), was first isolated in 1964, and at least 70 other structurally related ‘phytocannabinoid’ compounds have since been identified. The serendipitous identification of a G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor at which THC is active in the brain heralded an explosion in cannabinoid research. Elements of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) comprise the cannabinoid receptors, a family of nascent lipid ligands, the ‘endocannabinoids’ and the machinery for their biosynthesis and metabolism. The function of the ECS is thus defined by modulation of these receptors, in particular, by two of the best-described ligands, 2-arachidonoyl glycerol and anandamide (arachidonylethanolamide). Research on the ECS has recently aroused enormous interest not only for the physiological functions, but also for the promising therapeutic potentials of drugs interfering with the activity of cannabinoid receptors. Many of the former relate to stress-recovery systems and to the maintenance of homeostatic balance. Among other functions, the ECS is involved in neuroprotection, modulation of nociception, regulation of motor activity, neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and the control of certain phases of memory processing. In addition, the ECS acts to modulate the immune and inflammatory responses and to maintain a positive energy balance. This theme issue aims to provide the reader with an overview of ECS pharmacology, followed by discussions on the pivotal role of this system in the modulation of neurogenesis in the developing and adult organism, memory processes and synaptic plasticity, as well as in pathological pain and brain ageing. The volume will conclude with discussions that address the proposed therapeutic applications of targeting the ECS for the treatment of neurodegeneration, pain and mental illness.
Cannabis has been used to treat pain for thousands of years. However, since the early part of the 20th century, laws restricting cannabis use have limited its evaluation using modern scientific criteria. Over the last decade, the situation has started to change because of the increased availability of cannabis in the United States for either medical or recreational purposes, making it important to provide the public with accurate information as to the effectiveness of the drug for joint pain among other indications. The major psychotropic component of cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of some 120 naturally occurring phytocannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) is another molecule found in herbal cannabis in large amounts. Although CBD does not produce psychotropic effects, it has been shown to produce a variety of pharmacological effects. Hence, the overall effects of herbal cannabis represent the collective activity of THC, CBD and a number of minor components. The action of THC is mediated by two major G-protein coupled receptors, cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and CB2, and recent work has suggested that other targets may also exist. Arachidonic acid derived endocannabinoids are the normal physiological activators of the two cannabinoid receptors. Natural phytocannabinoids and synthetic derivatives have produced clear activity in a variety of models of joint pain in animals. These effects are the result of both inhibition of pain pathway signalling (mostly CB1) and anti-inflammatory effects (mostly CB2). There are also numerous anecdotal reports of the effectiveness of smoking cannabis for joint pain. Indeed, it is the largest medical request for the use of the drug. However, these reports generally do not extend to regulated clinical trials for rheumatic diseases. Nevertheless, the preclinical and human data that do exist indicate that the use of cannabis should be taken seriously as a potential treatment of joint pain.
Cannabis exposure, particularly heavy cannabis use, has been associated with neuroanatomical alterations in regions rich with cannabinoid receptors such as the hippocampus in some but not in other (mainly cross-sectional) studies. However, it remains unclear whether continued heavy cannabis use alters hippocampal volume, and whether an earlier age of onset and/or a higher dosage exacerbate these changes.
The therapeutic application of Cannabis is attracting substantial public and clinical interest. The Cannabis plant has been described as a veritable ‘treasure trove’, producing more than a hundred different cannabinoids, although the focus to date has been on the psychoactive molecule delta-9-tetraydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Other numerous secondary metabolites of Cannabis the terpenes, some of which share the common intermediary geranyl diphosphate (GPP) with the cannabinoids, are hypothesised to contribute synergistically to their therapeutic benefits, an attribute that has been described as the ‘entourage effect’. The effective delivery of such a complex multicomponent pharmaceutical relies upon the stable genetic background and standardised growth of the plant material, particularly if the raw botanical product in the form of the dried pistillate inflorescence (flos) is the source. Following supercritical CO2 extraction of the inflorescence (and possibly bracts), the secondary metabolites can be blended to provide a specific ratio of major cannabinoids (THC:CBD) or individual cannabinoids can be isolated, purified and supplied as the pharmaceutical. Intensive breeding strategies will provide novel cultivars of Cannabis possessing elevated levels of specific cannabinoids or other secondary metabolites.
Increased medical and legal cannabis intake is accompanied by greater use of cannabis vaporization and more cases of driving under the influence of cannabis. Although simultaneous Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and alcohol use is frequent, potential pharmacokinetic interactions are poorly understood. Here we studied blood and plasma vaporized cannabinoid disposition, with and without simultaneous oral low-dose alcohol.
Activation of cannabinoid CB1 receptors (CB1R) by delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) produces a variety of negative effects with major consequences in cannabis users that constitute important drawbacks for the use of cannabinoids as therapeutic agents. For this reason, there is a tremendous medical interest in harnessing the beneficial effects of THC. Behavioral studies carried out in mice lacking 5-HT2A receptors (5-HT2AR) revealed a remarkable 5-HT2AR-dependent dissociation in the beneficial antinociceptive effects of THC and its detrimental amnesic properties. We found that specific effects of THC such as memory deficits, anxiolytic-like effects, and social interaction are under the control of 5-HT2AR, but its acute hypolocomotor, hypothermic, anxiogenic, and antinociceptive effects are not. In biochemical studies, we show that CB1R and 5-HT2AR form heteromers that are expressed and functionally active in specific brain regions involved in memory impairment. Remarkably, our functional data shows that costimulation of both receptors by agonists reduces cell signaling, antagonist binding to one receptor blocks signaling of the interacting receptor, and heteromer formation leads to a switch in G-protein coupling for 5-HT2AR from Gq to Gi proteins. Synthetic peptides with the sequence of transmembrane helices 5 and 6 of CB1R, fused to a cell-penetrating peptide, were able to disrupt receptor heteromerization in vivo, leading to a selective abrogation of memory impairments caused by exposure to THC. These data reveal a novel molecular mechanism for the functional interaction between CB1R and 5-HT2AR mediating cognitive impairment. CB1R-5-HT2AR heteromers are thus good targets to dissociate the cognitive deficits induced by THC from its beneficial antinociceptive properties.
Recent analysis of the cannabinoid content of cannabis plants suggests a shift towards use of high potency plant material with high levels of Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and low levels of other phytocannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD). Use of this type of cannabis is thought by some to predispose to greater adverse outcomes on mental health and fewer therapeutic benefits. Australia has one of the highest per capita rates of cannabis use in the world yet there has been no previous systematic analysis of the cannabis being used. In the present study we examined the cannabinoid content of 206 cannabis samples that had been confiscated by police from recreational users holding 15 g of cannabis or less, under the New South Wales “Cannabis Cautioning” scheme. A further 26 “Known Provenance” samples were analysed that had been seized by police from larger indoor or outdoor cultivation sites rather than from street level users. An HPLC method was used to determine the content of 9 cannabinoids: THC, CBD, cannabigerol (CBG), and their plant-based carboxylic acid precursors THC-A, CBD-A and CBG-A, as well as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THC-V). The “Cannabis Cautioning” samples showed high mean THC content (THC+THC-A = 14.88%) and low mean CBD content (CBD+CBD-A = 0.14%). A modest level of CBG was detected (CBG+CBG-A = 1.18%) and very low levels of CBC, CBN and THC-V (<0.1%). "Known Provenance" samples showed no significant differences in THC content between those seized from indoor versus outdoor cultivation sites. The present analysis echoes trends reported in other countries towards the use of high potency cannabis with very low CBD content. The implications for public health outcomes and harm reduction strategies are discussed.
Therapeutic cannabis administration is increasingly used in Western countries due to its positive role in several pathologies. Dronabinol or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pills, ethanolic cannabis tinctures, oromucosal sprays or table vaporizing devices are available but other cannabinoids forms can be used. Inspired by the illegal practice of dabbing of butane hashish oil (BHO), cannabinoids from cannabis were extracted with butane gas, and the resulting concentrate (BHO) was atomized with specific vaporizing devices. The efficiency of “cannavaping,” defined as the “vaping” of liquid refills for e-cigarettes enriched with cannabinoids, including BHO, was studied as an alternative route of administration for therapeutic cannabinoids. The results showed that illegal cannavaping would be subjected to marginal development due to the poor solubility of BHO in commercial liquid refills (especially those with high glycerin content). This prevents the manufacture of liquid refills with high BHO concentrations adopted by most recreational users of cannabis to feel the psychoactive effects more rapidly and extensively. Conversely, “therapeutic cannavaping” could be an efficient route for cannabinoids administration because less concentrated cannabinoids-enriched liquid refills are required. However, the electronic device marketed for therapeutic cannavaping should be carefully designed to minimize potential overheating and contaminant generation.