Cannabis is one of the most widely used illicit substances and there is growing interest in the association between cannabis use and psychosis. Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC) the principal active ingredient of cannabis has been shown to induce psychotomimetic and amnestic effects in healthy individuals. Whether people who frequently use cannabis are either protected from or are tolerant to these effects of Δ-9-THC has not been established.
In a 3-day, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, the dose-related effects of 0, 2.5 and 5 mg intravenous Δ-9-THC were studied in 30 frequent users of cannabis and compared to 22 historical healthy controls.
Δ-9-THC 1) produced transient psychotomimetic effects and perceptual alterations; 2) impaired memory and attention; 3) increased subjective effects of “high”; 4) produced tachycardia and 5) increased serum cortisol in both groups. However, relative to controls, frequent users showed blunted responses to the psychotomimetic, perceptual altering, cognitive impairing, anxiogenic, and cortisol increasing effects of Δ-9-THC but not to its euphoric effects. Frequent users also had lower prolactin levels.
These data suggest that frequent users of cannabis are either inherently blunted in their response to, and/or develop tolerance to the psychotomimetic, perceptual altering, amnestic, endocrine and other effects of cannabinoids.
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