, Volume 212, Issue 4, pp 675–686 | Cite as

Efficacy and tolerability of high-dose dronabinol maintenance in HIV-positive marijuana smokers: a controlled laboratory study

  • Gillinder Bedi
  • Richard W. Foltin
  • Erik W. Gunderson
  • Judith Rabkin
  • Carl L. Hart
  • Sandra D. Comer
  • Suzanne K. Vosburg
  • Margaret HaneyEmail author
original investigation



Dronabinol (Δ9tetrahydrocannabinol) is approved for HIV-related anorexia, yet, little is known about its effects in HIV-positive marijuana smokers. HIV-negative marijuana smokers require higher than recommended dronabinol doses to experience expected effects.


Employing a within-subjects, double-blind, placebo-controlled design, we assessed the effects of repeated high-dose dronabinol in HIV-positive marijuana smokers taking antiretroviral medication.


Participants (N = 7), who smoked marijuana 4.2 ± 2.3 days/week, resided in a residential laboratory for two 16-day stays, receiving dronabinol (10 mg QID) in one stay and placebo in the other. Efficacy was assessed with objectively verified food intake and body weight. Tolerability was measured with sleep, subjective, and cognitive assessments. For analyses, each inpatient stay was divided into two phases, days 1–8 and 9–16; we compared dronabinol’s effects with placebo in each 8-day phase to investigate tolerance.


Despite sustained increases in self-reported food cravings, dronabinol only increased caloric intake in the initial 8 days of dosing. Similarly, sleep quality was improved only in the first 8 days of dosing. Dronabinol’s mood-enhancing effects were sustained across the 16-day inpatient stay. Dronabinol was well tolerated, causing few negative subjective or cognitive effects.


In HIV-positive marijuana smokers, high dronabinol doses safely and effectively increased caloric intake. However, repeated high-dose dronabinol appeared to result in selective tolerance to these effects. These findings indicate that HIV-positive individuals who smoke marijuana may require higher dronabinol doses than are recommended by the FDA. Future research to establish optimal dosing regimens, and reduce the development of tolerance, is required.


HIV Dronabinol THC Appetite stimulation Anorexia 



Thanks to Brooke Roe, Diana Paksarian, and Michael Rubin for assistance in data collection, and to Jennifer Redman for input into interpretation of sleep measurements. This study complies with the laws of the country in which it was performed (USA).


National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (DA0126980).

The authors have no conflicts to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillinder Bedi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard W. Foltin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erik W. Gunderson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Judith Rabkin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carl L. Hart
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sandra D. Comer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Suzanne K. Vosburg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Margaret Haney
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryCollege of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Division on Substance AbuseNew York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA

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