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Reintoxication: the release of fat-stored delta-9-tetrahidrocanabinol (THC) into blood is enhanced b

Reintoxication: the release of fat-stored delta-9-tetrahidrocanabinol (THC) into blood is enhanced b

    British Journal of Pharmacology (2009), 158, 1330–1337

    N Gunasekaran 1, LE Long 2, BL Dawson 3, GH Hansen 3, DP Richardson 1, KM Li 1, JC Arnold 1 and IS McGregor 2

    1 School of Medical Science (Pharmacology) and Bosch Institute, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2 The School of Psychology, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia, and, 3 The Division of Analytical Laboratories (DAL), Sydney West Area Health Service, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    Background and purpose: delta-9-tetrahidrocanabinol (THC), the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis, accumulates in adipose tissue where it is stored for long periods of time. Here we investigated whether conditions that promote lipolysis can liberate THC from adipocytes to yield increased blood levels of THC.

    Experimental approach: In vitro studies involved freshly isolated rat adipocytes that were incubated with THC before exposure to the lipolytic agent adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). A complementary in vivo approach examined the effects of both food deprivation and ACTH on blood levels of THC in rats that had been repeatedly injected with THC (10 mg·kg-1) for 10 consecutive days. Lipolysis promoted by ACTH or food deprivation was indexed by measurement of glycerol levels.

    Key results: ACTH increased THC levels in the medium of THC-pretreated adipocytes in vitro. ACTH also enhanced THC release from adipocytes in vitro when taken from rats repeatedly pretreated with THC in vivo. Finally, in vivo ACTH exposure and 24 h food deprivation both enhanced the levels of THC and its metabolite, (-)-11-nor-9-carboxy-D 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THCCOOH) in the blood of rats that had been pre-exposed to repeated THC injections.

    Conclusions and implications: The present study shows that lipolysis enhances the release of THC from fat stores back into blood. This suggests the likelihood of ‘reintoxication’ whereby food deprivation or stress may raise blood THC levels in animals chronically exposed to the drug. Further research will need to confirm whether this can lead to functional effects, such as impaired cognitive function or ‘flashbacks’.

    British Journal of Pharmacology (2009) 158, 1330–1337; doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2009.00399.x; published online 14 August 2009

    Keywords: ACTH; adipocytes; cannabis; food deprivation; lipolysis; delta-9-tetrahidrocanabinol; (-)-11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol