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Przegl Lek. 2005;62(6):576-80.

Tetrahydrocannabinols in clinical and forensic toxicology.

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Faculty of Chemistry, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.


Cannabinoids are the natural constituents of marihuana (cannabis). The main of them are delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (9THC)--psychoactive agent, cannabinol (CBN) and cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis is administered either by smoking or orally. 9THC potency and duration of action as well as its and two of its major metabolites concentrations in organism highly depend on the route of administration. A single active dose of 9THC is estimated on 520 mg. 9THC is rapidly metabolised. It is hydroxylated to an active metabolite, I1 -hydroxy-delta9-tetrahydro-cannabinol (11-OH-THC), then oxidised to an inactive 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THCCOOH), which is conjugated with glucuronic acid and predominantly excreted in the urine. The maximum psychological effect persists for 4-6 h after administration despite of very low 9THC blood concentrations. 9THC plasma concentration declined to values of 2-3 ng/ml during 3-4 h after smoking. Such a low concentration of the active compound in human organism create a demand for use of sensitive analytical methods for detection and determination of 9THC and its metabolites. The most effective techniques for 9THC and related compounds determination in biological material are chromatographic ones (gas and liquid) with mass spectrometric detection and different ionization modes. 9THC and its two metabolites (11-OH-THC and THCCOOH) are present in blood and hair, 9THC in saliva, and THCCOOH in urine. 9THC and related compounds are determined in autopsy material, although deaths by overdose of cannabis are exceptionally rare. Fatalities happen most often after intravenous injection of hashish oil. 9THC and its metabolites determination in different biological materials gives the basis for a wide interpretation of analytical results for clinical and forensic toxicology purposes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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