Pharmacokinetic properties of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in oral fluid of occasional and chronic users

S.W. Toennes*, J.G. Ramaekers, E.L. Theunissen, M.R. Moeller, G.F. Kauert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Saliva is of continuing interest in detecting the influence of drugs while driving. Commercial tests are currently available where cannabis detectability is a major challenge. The present study aids in the understanding of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) pharmacokinetics in oral fluid. The oral fluid analyses exhibited no significant differences between 12 occasional users and 12 chronic users smoking a standardized cannabis joint, except for the maximum concentrations in the first samples (occasional users, 397- 6438 ng/g; chronic users 387-71,747 ng/g). THC was detectable in all samples with medians in the last samples (8 h) of 6.3 and 11.3 ng/g in occasional and chronic users, respectively. The elimination half-life in both groups was 1.6 +/- 0.4 h. A series of samples was obtained over a period of 8 h without actual drug use representing a later elimination phase. Of these oral fluid samples, only 4.3% were negative for THC despite positive serum, and 24.1% of serum samples were negative despite positive oral fluid. This confirms that THC is detectable for longer in oral fluid than in serum. The oral fluid-to-serum ratios were 0.3 to 425 (median 16.5) with no difference between chronic and occasional users. The large inter- and intraindividual variability observed precludes a reliable estimation of THC serum concentrations from oral fluid data using this collection device.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-221
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Analytical Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • THC

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