Acute effects of THC on time perception in frequent and infrequent cannabis users
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- Sewell, R.A., Schnakenberg, A., Elander, J. et al. Psychopharmacology (2013) 226: 401. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2915-6
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Cannabinoids have been shown to alter time perception, but existing literature has several limitations. Few studies have included both time estimation and production tasks, few control for subvocal counting, most had small sample sizes, some did not record subjects’ cannabis use, many tested only one dose, and used either oral or inhaled administration of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), leading to variable pharmacokinetics, and some used whole-plant cannabis containing cannabinoids other than THC. Our study attempted to address these limitations.
This study aims to characterize the acute effects of THC and frequent cannabis use on seconds-range time perception. THC was hypothesized to produce transient, dose-related time overestimation and underproduction. Frequent cannabis smokers were hypothesized to show blunted responses to these alterations.
IV THC was administered at doses from 0.015 to 0.05 mg/kg to 44 subjects who participated in several double-blind, randomized, counterbalanced, crossover, placebo-controlled studies. Visual time estimation and production tasks in the seconds range were presented to subjects three times on each test day.
All doses induced time overestimation and underproduction. Chronic cannabis use had no effect on baseline time perception. While infrequent/nonsmokers showed temporal overestimation at medium and high doses and temporal underproduction at all doses, frequent cannabis users showed no differences. THC effects on time perception were not dose related.
A psychoactive dose of THC increases internal clock speed as indicated by time overestimation and underproduction. This effect is not dose related and is blunted in chronic cannabis smokers who did not otherwise have altered baseline time perception.