Urinary cannabinoid mass spectrometry profiles differentiate dronabinol from cannabis use

Christopher D. Koch, Liang Xu, Susanna A. Curtis, John D. Roberts, Dustin R. Bunch, Joe M. El-Khoury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Dronabinol is used to treat a variety of conditions, including loss of appetite in people with AIDS and severe nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. Its therapeutic potential for pain management is now being explored in specific populations. Monitoring dronabinol compliance is challenging because its active ingredient, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is also present in cannabis. We developed a rapid LC-MS/MS assay with minimal specimen preparation to quantitate 11 cannabinoids in urine. Using this assay coupled with urine samples from normal controls, cannabis, and dronabinol users, we show the ability to differentiate cannabis from dronabinol use. Methods: Residual clinical urine samples from 55 cannabinoid positive subjects and 31 negative controls, as well as prospective samples from 5 patients receiving dronabinol therapy were obtained for analysis. Results: In the dronabinol group, only the THC metabolites 11-nor-9-carboxy-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-COOH) and 11-hydroxy-Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC-OH) were detected. Minor cannabinoids were detected in 91% of cannabis group samples and their detection was more frequent in samples with increased THC metabolite concentrations. Of minor cannabinoids evaluated, cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabidiol (CBD) had the greatest sensitivity in detecting cannabis use. Conclusions: This method has a high sensitivity for the detection of cannabis use with implications for evaluating dronabinol compliance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-521
Number of pages7
JournalClinica Chimica Acta
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Cannabinoid
  • Cannabis
  • Dronabinol
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Urine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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