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J Anal Toxicol. 2005 Nov-Dec;29(8):782-9.

Simultaneous and sensitive analysis of THC, 11-OH-THC, THC-COOH, CBD, and CBN by GC-MS in plasma after oral application of small doses of THC and cannabis extract.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, University Hospital Charité, Hannoversche Strabe 6, D-10115 Berlin, Germany.


Besides the psychoactive Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), hashish and marijuana as well as cannabis-based medicine extracts contain varying amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and of the degradation product cannabinol (CBN). The additional determination of these compounds is interesting from forensic and medical points of view because it can be used for further proof of cannabis exposure and because CBD is known to modify the effects of THC. Therefore, a method for the simultaneous quantitative determination of THC, its metabolites 11-hydroxy-Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC) and 11-nor-9-carboxy-Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH), CBD and CBN from plasma was developed. The method was based on automatic solid-phase extraction with C(18) ec columns, derivatization with N,O-bistrimethylsilyltrifluoroacetamide (BSTFA), and gas chromatography-electron impact ionization-mass spectrometry (GC-EI-MS) with deuterated standards. The limits of detection were between 0.15 and 0.29 ng/mL for THC, 11-OH-THC, THC-COOH, and CBD and 1.1 ng/mL for CBN. The method was applied in a prospective pharmacokinetic study after single oral administration of 10 mg THC alone or together with 5.4 mg CBD in cannabis extract. The maximum plasma concentrations after cannabis extract administration ranged between 1.2 and 10.3 ng/mL (mean 4.05 ng/mL) for THC, 1.8 and 12.3 ng/mL (mean 4.9 ng/mL) for 11-OH-THC, 19 and 71 ng/mL (mean 35 ng/mL) for THC-COOH, and 0.2 and 2.6 ng/mL (mean 0.95 ng/mg) for CBD. The peak concentrations (mean values) of THC, 11-OH-THC, THC-COOH, and CBD were observed at 56, 82, 115, and 60 min, respectively, after intake. CBN was not detected. Caused by the strong first-pass metabolism, the concentrations of the metabolites were increased during the first hours after drug administration when compared to literature data for smoking. Therefore, the concentration ratio 11-OH-THC/THC was discussed as a criterion for distinguishing oral from inhalative cannabis consumption.

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