Acute effects of cannabis on breath-holding duration

Samantha G. Farris, Jane Metrik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Distress intolerance (an individual's perceived or actual inability to tolerate distressing psychological or physiological states) is associated with cannabis use. It is unknown whether a biobehavioral index of distress intolerance, breath-holding duration, is acutely influenced (increased or decreased) by cannabis. Such information may further inform understanding of the expression of psychological or physiological distress postcannabis use. This within-subjects study examined whether smoked marijuana with 2.7%-3.0% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), relative to placebo, acutely changed duration of breath holding. Participants (n = 88; 65.9% male) were nontreatment-seeking frequent cannabis users who smoked placebo or active THC cigarette on two separate study days and completed a breath-holding task postsmoking. Controlling for baseline breath-holding duration and participant sex, THC produced significantly shorter breath-holding durations relative to placebo. There was a significant interaction of drug administration × frequency of cannabis use, such that THC decreased breath-holding time among less frequent but not among more frequent users. Findings indicate that cannabis may exacerbate distress intolerance (via shorter breath-holding durations). As compared to less frequent cannabis users, frequent users display tolerance to cannabis' acute effects including increased ability to tolerate respiratory distress when holding breath. Objective measures of distress intolerance are sensitive to contextual factors such as acute drug intoxication, and may inform the link between cannabis use and the expression of psychological distress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-312
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • Distress tolerance
  • Marijuana
  • Psychopathology
  • Task persistence


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