Identification of Potential Distinguishing Markers for the Use of Cannabis-Based Medicines or Street Cannabis in Serum Samples.Metabolites. 2021 May 13; 11(5)M
Increasing prescription numbers of cannabis-based medicines raise the question of whether uptake of these medicines can be distinguished from recreational cannabis use. In this pilot study, serum cannabinoid profiles after use of cannabis-based medicines were investigated, in order to identify potential distinguishing markers. Serum samples after use of Sativex®, Dronabinol or medical cannabis were collected and analyzed for 18 different cannabinoids, using a validated liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) method. Analytes included delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, 11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol, 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, cannabicyclol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, cannabidivarin, tetrahydocannabinolic acid A, cannabidiolic acid, cannabinolic acid, cannabigerolic acid, cannabichromenic acid, cannabicyclolic acid, tetrahydrocannabivarinic acid and cannabidivarinic acid. Cannabinoid profiles of study samples were compared to profiles of street cannabis user samples via principal component analysis and Kruskal-Wallis test. Potential distinguishing markers for Dronabinol and Sativex® intake were identified, including 11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol/delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ratios ≥1 and increased concentrations of 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol or cannabichromene. Larger quantities of minor cannabinoids suggested use of cannabis. Use of medical and street cannabis could not be distinguished, except for use of a cannabidiol-rich strain with higher cannabidiol/delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabichromene/delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol ratios. Findings of the study were used to classify forensic serum samples with self-reported use of cannabis-based medicines.