, Volume 220, Issue 2, pp 309–318

Characterizing smoking topography of cannabis in heavy users

  • Erin A. McClure
  • Maxine L. Stitzer
  • Ryan Vandrey
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-011-2480-4

Cite this article as:
McClure, E.A., Stitzer, M.L. & Vandrey, R. Psychopharmacology (2012) 220: 309. doi:10.1007/s00213-011-2480-4



Little is known about the smoking topography characteristics of heavy cannabis users. Such measures may be able to predict cannabis use-related outcomes and could be used to validate self-reported measures of cannabis use.


The current study was conducted to measure cannabis smoking topography characteristics during periods of ad libitum use and to correlate topography assessments with measures of self-reported cannabis use, withdrawal and craving during abstinence, and cognitive task performance.


Participants (N = 20) completed an inpatient study in which they alternated between periods of ad libitum cannabis use and abstinence. Measures of self-reported cannabis use, smoking topography, craving, withdrawal, and sleep measures were collected.


Participants smoked with greater intensity (e.g., greater volume, longer duration) on initial cigarette puffs with a steady decline on subsequent puffs. Smoking characteristics were significantly correlated with severity of withdrawal, notably sleep quality and architecture, and craving during abstinence, suggesting dose-related effects of cannabis use on these outcomes. Smoking characteristics generally were not significantly associated with cognitive performance. Smoking topography measures were significantly correlated with self-reported measures of cannabis use, indicating validity of these assessments, but topography measures were more sensitive than self-report in predicting cannabis-related outcomes.


A dose–effect relationship between cannabis consumption and outcomes believed to be clinically important was observed. With additional research, smoking topography assessments may become a useful clinical tool.


Smoking topography Cannabis use disorders Cannabis Withdrawal Craving Sleep 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin A. McClure
    • 1
  • Maxine L. Stitzer
    • 1
  • Ryan Vandrey
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Pharmacology Research UnitJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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