The effect of high-dose dronabinol (oral THC) maintenance on cannabis self-administration

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Background: There is a clear need for advancing the treatment of cannabis use disorders. Prior research has demonstrated that dronabinol (oral THC) can dose-dependently suppress cannabis withdrawal and reduce the acute effects of smoked cannabis. The present study was conducted to evaluate whether high-dose dronabinol could reduce cannabis self-administration among daily users. Methods: Non-treatment seeking daily cannabis users (N = 13) completed a residential within-subjects crossover study and were administered placebo, low-dose dronabinol (120 mg/day; 40 mg tid), or high-dose dronabinol (180–240 mg/day; 60–80 mg tid) for 12 consecutive days (order counterbalanced). During each 12-day dronabinol maintenance phase, participants were allowed to self-administer smoked cannabis containing <1% THC (placebo) or 5.7% THC (active) under forced-choice (drug vs. money) or progressive ratio conditions. Results: Participants self-administered significantly more active cannabis compared with placebo in all conditions. When active cannabis was available, self-administration was significantly reduced during periods of dronabinol maintenance compared with placebo maintenance. There was no difference in self-administration between the low- and high-dose dronabinol conditions. Conclusions: Chronic dronabinol dosing can reduce cannabis self-administration in daily cannabis users and suppress withdrawal symptoms. Cannabinoid agonist medications should continue to be explored for therapeutic utility in the treatment of cannabis use disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-260
Number of pages7
JournalDrug and alcohol dependence
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Cannabis
  • Dronabinol
  • Marijuana
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • THC
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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