J Anal Toxicol. 2021 Jun 30:bkab080. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkab080. Online ahead of print.
Proving driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) is difficult. Establishing a biomarker of recent use to supplement behavioral observations may be a useful alternative strategy. We determined whether cannabinoid concentrations in blood, oral fluid (OF), or breath could identify use within 3h, likely the period of greatest impairment. In a randomized trial, 191 frequent (≥4/week) and occasional (<4/week) cannabis users smoked one cannabis (placebo [0.02%], 5.9% or 13.4% THC) cigarette ad libitum. Blood, OF and breath samples were collected prior to and up to 6h after smoking. Samples were analyzed for 10 cannabinoids in OF, 8 in blood, and THC in breath. Frequent users had more residual THC in blood and were categorized as « recently used » prior to smoking; this did not occur in OF. Per se limits ranging from undetectable to 5 ng/mL THC in blood offered limited usefulness as biomarkers of recent use. Cannabinol (CBN, cutoff=1 ng/mL) in blood offered 100% specificity but only 31.4% sensitivity, resulting in 100% PPV and 94.0% NPV at 4.3% prevalence; but CBN may vary by cannabis chemovar. A 10 ng/mL THC cutoff in OF exhibited the overall highest performance to detect use within 3h (99.7% specificity, 82.4% sensitivity, 92.5% PPV, 99.2% NPV) but was still detectable in 23.2% of participants ~4.4h post smoking limiting specificity at later time points. OF THC may be a helpful indicator of recent cannabis intake, but this does not equate to impairment. Behavioral assessment of impairment is still required to determine DUIC. This study only involved cannabis inhalation and additional research evaluating alternative routes of ingestion (i.e., oral) is needed.
Source: ncbi 2