Opioid antagonism enhances marijuana's effects in heavy marijuana smokers.Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2010; 211(2):141-8P
RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVE
Studies in laboratory animals strongly suggest reciprocal modulation of the opioidergic and endocannabinoid systems, a relationship that has not been demonstrated in humans. This study sought to clarify this interaction by assessing how a range of naltrexone doses altered the subjective, cognitive, and cardiovascular effects of marijuana.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Daily marijuana smokers (n = 29) participated in this within-subject, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Naltrexone (0, 12, 25, 50, or 100 mg) was administered before active or inactive marijuana (3.27 or 0% THC) was smoked.
Active marijuana increased subjective ratings of marijuana 'Strength,' 'High,' and positive subjective ratings of marijuana quality and drug effect including 'Liking,' 'Good,' and 'Take Again' compared to inactive marijuana. Naltrexone alone decreased ratings of 'Liking,' 'Take Again,' and 'Stimulated' compared with placebo, but increased ratings of drug 'Strength,' 'High,' 'Good,' 'Liking,' 'Stimulated,' and 'Take Again' when administered under active marijuana conditions. Active marijuana did not affect performance on cognitive tasks relative to inactive marijuana, whereas naltrexone decreased performance when administered alone or in combination with active marijuana. Active marijuana increased heart rate compared to inactive marijuana under placebo naltrexone conditions. Although naltrexone alone decreased heart rate, it further increased marijuana's cardiovascular effect.
In heavy marijuana smokers opioid-receptor blockade enhanced the subjective and cardiovascular effects of marijuana, suggesting that endogenous opioids dampen cannabinoid effects in this population. These findings demonstrate that a broad range of clinically used doses of naltrexone potentially increases the abuse liability and cardiovascular risks of cannabinoids.