Comparison of cannabinoid concentrations in oral fluid and whole blood between occasional and regular cannabis smokers prior to and after smoking a cannabis joint.
Oral fluid (OF) is a valuable biological alternative for clinical and forensic drug testing. Evaluating OF to plasma (OF/P) cannabinoid ratios provides important pharmacokinetic data on the disposition of drug and factors influencing partition between matrices. Eleven chronic cannabis smokers resided on a closed research unit for 51 days. There were four 5-day sessions of 0, 30, 60, and 120 mg oral ∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)/day followed by a five-puff smoked cannabis challenge on Day 5. Each session was separated by 9 days ad libitum cannabis smoking. OF and plasma specimens were analyzed for THC and metabolites. During ad libitum smoking, OF/P THC ratios were high (median, 6.1; range, 0.2-348.5) within 1 h after last smoking, decreasing to 0.1-20.7 (median, 2.1) by 13.0-17.1 h. OF/P THC ratios also decreased during 5-days oral THC dosing, and after the smoked cannabis challenge, median OF/P THC ratios decreased from 1.4 to 5.5 (0.04-245.6) at 0.25 h to 0.12 to 0.17 (0.04-5.1) at 10.5 h post-smoking. In other studies, longer exposure to more potent cannabis smoke and oromucosal cannabis spray was associated with increased OF/P THC peak ratios. Median OF/P 11-nor-9-carboxy-THC (THCCOOH) ratios were 0.3-2.5 (range, 0.1-14.7) ng/μg, much more consistent in various dosing conditions over time. OF/P THC, but not THCCOOH, ratios were significantly influenced by oral cavity contamination after smoking or oromucosal spray of cannabinoid products, followed by time-dependent decreases. Establishing relationships between OF and plasma cannabinoid concentrations is essential for making inferences of impairment or other clinical outcomes from OF concentrations.