Increased cannabis availability has contributed to increased use with concomitant incidence of adverse effects. One risk factor for adverse drug reactions may be age. There is preclinical evidence that acute effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary active constituent of cannabis, are greater during adolescence, but this has not been fully studied in humans. The present study sought to determine whether adolescent men and women are more sensitive than adults to acute THC. Adolescents aged 18–20 (N = 12) and adults aged 30–40 (N = 12), with less than 20 total lifetime uses of THC-containing products, received capsules of THC (7.5, 15 mg) and placebo across three study sessions in randomized order under double blind conditions. During each session, subjective, cardiovascular, behavioral, and EEG measures were obtained. Behavioral measures included Simple Reaction Time, Stop Task, Time Production and N-back and EEG measures included P300 amplitudes during an auditory oddball task and eyes-closed resting state. THC affected subjective state and heart rate similarly in both age groups. However, adolescents were more sensitive to performance impairing effects, exhibiting dose-dependent impairments on reaction time, response accuracy, and time perception. On EEG measures, THC dose-dependently decreased P300 amplitude in adolescents but not adults. Adolescents were more sensitive to behavioral and cognitive effects of THC, but not to cardiovascular effects or subjective measures. Thus, at doses that produce comparable ratings of intoxication, adolescents may exhibit greater cognitive impairment and alterations in brain function.
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This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health [DA02812]. CHM was supported by the National Institutes of Health [T32DA043469]. The authors declare no biomedical financial interests or potential conflicts of interest related to this project. HdW is or has been scientific advisor to PharmAla Biotech, Awakn Life Sciences, Gilgamesh Pharmaceuticals and Schedule I Therapeutics for projects unrelated to this study, and has received research support from the Beckley Foundation for an unrelated project.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Murray, C.H., Huang, Z., Lee, R. et al. Adolescents are more sensitive than adults to acute behavioral and cognitive effects of THC. Neuropsychopharmacol. 47, 1331–1338 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-022-01281-w