Enhancement mu opioid antinociception by oral delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol: dose-response analysis and receptor identification
Cichewicz DL, Martin ZL, Smith FL, Welch SP
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology,
Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University,
Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Jpn J Pharmacol 1999 Apr; 79(4):427-31


The antinociceptive effects of various mu opioids given p.o. alone and in combination with Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9-THC) were evaluated using the tail-flick test. Morphine preceded by Delta9-THC treatment (20 mg/kg) was significantly more potent than morphine alone, with an ED50 shift from 28.8 to 13.1 mg/kg. Codeine showed the greatest shift in ED50 value when administered after Delta9-THC (139.9 to 5.9 mg/kg). The dose-response curves for oxymorphone and hydromorphone were shifted 5- and 12.6-fold, respectively. Methadone was enhanced 4-fold, whereas its derivative, l-alpha-acetylmethadol, was enhanced 3-fold. The potency ratios after pretreatment with Delta9-THC for heroin and meperidine indicated significant enhancement (4.1 and 8.9, respectively). Pentazocine did not show a parallel shift in its dose-response curve with Delta9-THC. Naloxone administration (1 mg/kg s.c.) completely blocked the antinociceptive effects of morphine p.o. and codeine p.o. The Delta9-THC-induced enhancement of morphine and codeine was also significantly decreased by naloxone administration. Naltrindole (2 mg/kg s.c.) did not affect morphine or codeine antinociception but did block the enhancement of these two opioids by Delta9-THC. No effect was seen when nor-binaltorphimine was administered 2 mg/kg s.c. before morphine or codeine. Furthermore, the enhancements of morphine and codeine were not blocked by nor-binaltorphimine. We find that many mu opioids are enhanced by an inactive dose of Delta9-THC p.o. The exact nature of this enhancement is unknown. We show evidence of involvement of mu and possibly delta opioid receptors as a portion of this signaling pathway that leads to a decrease in pain perception.

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