Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 405, Issue 30, pp 9791–9803 | Cite as

Comparison of cannabinoid concentrations in oral fluid and whole blood between occasional and regular cannabis smokers prior to and after smoking a cannabis joint

  • Marie Fabritius
  • Haithem Chtioui
  • Giovanni Battistella
  • Jean-Marie Annoni
  • Kim Dao
  • Bernard Favrat
  • Eleonora Fornari
  • Estelle Lauer
  • Philippe Maeder
  • Christian Giroud
Research Paper


A cross-over controlled administration study of smoked cannabis was carried out on occasional and heavy smokers. The participants smoked a joint (11 % Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)) or a matching placebo on two different occasions. Whole blood (WB) and oral fluid (OF) samples were collected before and up to 3.5 h after smoking the joints. Pharmacokinetic analyses were obtained from these data. Questionnaires assessing the subjective effects were administered to the subjects during each session before and after the smoking time period. THC, 11-hydroxy-THC (11-OH-THC) and 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) were analyzed in the blood by gas chromatography or liquid chromatography (LC)-tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS). The determination of THC, THCCOOH, cannabinol (CBN), and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid A (THC-A) was carried out on OF only using LC-MS/MS. In line with the widely accepted assumption that cannabis smoking results in a strong contamination of the oral cavity, we found that THC, and also THC-A, shows a sharp, high concentration peak just after smoking, with a rapid decrease in these levels within 3 h. No obvious differences were found between both groups concerning THC median maximum concentrations measured either in blood or in OF; these levels were equal to 1,338 and 1,041 μg/L in OF and to 82 and 94 μg/L in WB for occasional and heavy smokers, respectively. The initial WB THCCOOH concentration was much higher in regular smokers than in occasional users. Compared with the occasional smokers, the sensation of confusion felt by the regular smokers was much less while the feeling of intoxication remained almost unchanged.


Time profiles of THC, 11-OH-THC, and THCCOOH in whole blood for occasional (a) and heavy cannabis smokers (b)


Cannabis Pharmacokinetic Oral fluid Whole blood Heavy use Occasional use 



The authors would like to thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS_320030_127507/1), the Centre d’Imagerie BioMédicale (CIBM), and the Faculty of Biology and Medicine (interdisciplinary grant) at the University of Lausanne for their financial support. We thank Dr. Marc Augsburger, Dr. Christian Staub, and Prof. Patrice Mangin of the University Center of Legal Medicine Lausanne-Geneva; Dr Jean-Frédéric Mall of the Department of Psychiatry at CHUV; Prof. Thierry Buclin; and the staff of the division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at CHUV. The authors would also like to thank Ms. Ann Travis and Fiona Smith for reviewing the English version of the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie Fabritius
    • 1
  • Haithem Chtioui
    • 2
  • Giovanni Battistella
    • 3
  • Jean-Marie Annoni
    • 4
  • Kim Dao
    • 2
  • Bernard Favrat
    • 5
  • Eleonora Fornari
    • 3
    • 6
  • Estelle Lauer
    • 7
  • Philippe Maeder
    • 3
  • Christian Giroud
    • 1
  1. 1.UTCF (Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry Unit)CURML (University Center of Legal Medicine)LausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Division of Clinical Pharmacology and ToxicologyCentre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV)LausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyCentre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV)LausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Neurology Unit, Department of MedicineUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland
  5. 5.UMPT (Unit of Psychology and Traffic Medicine)CURML (University Center of Legal Medicine)LausanneSwitzerland
  6. 6.CIBM Centre d’Imagerie BioMédicaleCentre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois unitLausanneSwitzerland
  7. 7.UTCF (Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry Unit)CURML (University Center of Legal Medicine)GenevaSwitzerland

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