Profiling the subjective effects of Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol using visual analogue scales.

Kleinloog D, Roozen F, De Winter W, Freijer J, Van Gerven J

The subjective effects of cannabis and its main psychoactive component Δ(9) -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) have played an important part in determining the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid agonists and antagonists. The effects mainly consist of feeling high, changes in perception, feelings of relaxation and occasionally dysphoric reactions. These effects are captured by two of the most frequently used visual analogue scales (VASs) in clinical (pharmacologic) research to measure subjective effects: VAS Bond and Lader (alertness, calmness and mood) and VAS Bowdle (psychedelic effects). In this analysis, the effects of THC on these VASs were compared within a total of 217 subjects who participated in 10 different studies. Not surprisingly, the item feeling high was found to be the best predictor for the effect of THC. Three separate clusters that describe the spectrum of subjective effects of THC were identified using different statistical methods, consisting of VAS "time", "thoughts" and "high" ("perception"), VAS "drowsy", "muzzy", "mentally slow" and "dreamy" ("relaxation") and VAS "voices", "meaning" and "suspicious" ("dysphoria"). These results provide experimental evidence that THC can evoke different classes of effects. These distinct subjective clusters could represent effects on various systems in the brain, which can be used to further differentiate the involvement of endocannabinoid systems in health and disease.