Inhaled delivery of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to rats by e-cigarette vapor technology

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Most human Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) use is via inhalation, and yet few animal studies of inhalation exposure are available. Popularization of non-combusted methods for the inhalation of psychoactive drugs (Volcano®, e-cigarettes) further stimulates a need for rodent models of this route of administration. This study was designed to develop and validate a rodent chamber suitable for controlled exposure to vaporized THC in a propylene glycol vehicle, using an e-cigarette delivery system adapted to standard size, sealed rat housing chambers. The in vivo efficacy of inhaled THC was validated using radiotelemetry to assess body temperature and locomotor responses, a tail-flick assay for nociception and plasma analysis to verify exposure levels. Hypothermic responses to inhaled THC in male rats depended on the duration of exposure and the concentration of THC in the vehicle. The temperature nadir was reached after ˜40 min of exposure, was of comparable magnitude (˜3 °Celsius) to that produced by 20 mg/kg THC, i.p. and resolved within 3 h (compared with a 6 h time course following i.p. THC). Female rats were more sensitive to hypothermic effects of 30 min of lower-dose THC inhalation. Male rat tail-flick latency was increased by THC vapor inhalation; this effect was blocked by SR141716 pretreatment. The plasma THC concentration after 30 min of inhalation was similar to that produced by 10 mg/kg THC i.p. This approach is flexible, robust and effective for use in laboratory rats and will be of increasing utility as users continue to adopt “vaping” for the administration of cannabis.Graphical abstractHighlightsFew animal studies of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) inhalation are available.This study validated an e-cigarette system for delivering vaporized THC to rats.Hypothermia, anti-nociception and hypolocomotor effects were produced.This approach is flexible, robust and effective for use in laboratory rats.

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