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Methods Mol Med. 2006;123:235-53.

Methods for clinical research involving cannabis administration.

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Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Better scientific understanding of cannabis effects and the development of treatments for cannabis dependence require clinical studies involving cannabis administration. Cannabis can be administered by smoking a plant-derived cigarette or by oral or intravenous administration of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis. The smoked route is most commonly used outside the laboratory, but is subject to wide variation in absorbed dose. Oral synthetic THC is a legally marketed medication (dronabinol), also subject to wide pharmacokinetic variation, but offering a greater safety margin because of slower onset of action and lower potency. Intravenous THC offers precise investigator control of dose and timing. Acute adverse effects of cannabis administration include tachycardia, orthostatic hypotension, pulmonary irritation (if smoked), motor incoordination, cognitive impairment, anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. Screening of research subjects should identify and exclude those with risk factors for such events, e.g., a history of significant cardiovascular, pulmonary, or psychiatric disorders. Monitoring of subjects during cannabis administration should include heart rate, blood pressure, and mental status. Subjects should not be discharged from research participation until reevaluation has shown that they have returned to baseline status.

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