Edward R. Garrett, Edward R. Garrett, C. Anthony Hunt

Published in Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences

March 1977



The pharmacokinetics of intravenously administered 14C-delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and derived radiolabeled metabolites were studied in three dogs at two doses each at 0.1 or 0.5 and 2.0 mg/kg. Two dogs were biliary cannulated; total bile was collected in one and sampled in the other. The time course for the fraction of the dose per milliliter of plasma was best fit by a sum of five exponentials, and there was no dose dependency. No drug was excreted unchanged. The mean apparent volume of distribution of the central compartment referenced to total drug concentration in the plasma was 1.31 +/- 0.07 liters, approximately the plasma volume, due to the high protein binding of 97%. The mean metabolic clearance of drug in the plasma was 124 +/- 3.8 ml/min, half of the hepatic plasma flow, but was 4131 +/- 690 ml/min referenced to unbound drug concentration in the plasma, 16.5 times the hepatic plasma flow, indicating that net metabolism of both bound and unbound drug occurs. Apparent parallel production of several metabolites occurred, but the pharmacokinetics of their appearance were undoubtedly due to their sequential production during liver passage. The apparent half-life of the metabolic process was 6.9 +/- 0.3 min. The terminal half-life of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in the pseudo-steady state after equilibration in an apparent overall volume of distribtuion of 2170 +/- 555 liters referenced to total plasma concentration was 8.2 +/- 0.23 days, based on the consistency of all pharmacokinetic data. The best estimate of the terminal half-life, based only on the 7000 min that plasma levels could be monitored with the existing analytical sensitivity, was 1.24 days. However, this value was inconsistent with the metabolite production and excretion of 40-45% of dose in feces, 14-16.5% in urine, and 55% in bile within 5 days when 24% of the dose was unmetabolized and in the tissue at that time. These data were consistent with an enterohepatic recirculation of 10-15% of the metabolites. Intravenously administered radiolabeled metabolites were totally and rapidly eliminated in both bile and urine; 88% of the dose in 300 min with an apparent overall volume of distribution of 6 liters. These facts supported the proposition that the return of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol from tissue was the rate-determining process of drug elimination after initial fast distribution and metabolism and was inconsistent with the capability of enzyme induction to change the terminal half-life.


PMID: 845807



Garrett, E. R., & Hunt, C. A. (1977). Pharmacokinetics of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in dogs. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 66(3), 395–407. Retrieved from