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Life Sci. 1997;60(23):2075-89.

Marijuana intoxication and brain activation in marijuana smokers.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Radiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.



The acute effects of delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) on cerebral blood flow (CBF) were studied in human subjects. Regional CBF was measured with 15O-water and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in 32 volunteers with a history of exposure to marijuana. Scans were performed before and after intravenous (I.V.) infusion of either of two doses of THC or a placebo, given under double blind conditions.


THC but not placebo increased CBF especially in the frontal regions bilaterally, insula and cingulate gyrus and sub-cortical regions with somewhat greater effects in the right hemisphere. While most regions showed significant change at 60 minutes for the lower dose group, the higher dose group had significant change at 30 and 60 minutes. There was a highly significant change in the anterior/posterior ratio for the two THC groups reflecting minimal change in occipital flow but significant increases in frontal flow. Self ratings of THC intoxication showed significant effects, and regression analysis indicated it correlated most markedly with the right frontal region.


Behavioral manifestations of marijuana intoxication may be associated with increased functional activity of the brain especially the frontal cortex, insula and cingulate gyrus.

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