Study: Combined Administration Of Opioids And Cannabinoids Safe And Effective In Animal Model

San Antonio, TX: The co-administration of morphine and synthetic cannabinoids is efficacious and is not associated with significant changes in either behavior or cognition, according to animal trial data presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Investigators from the University of Texas Health Science Center assessed the safety and efficacy of the combined administration of morphine and synthetic THC in a group of rhesus monkeys. Researchers reported a lack of evidence that the co-administration of the two drugs was associated with amplified adverse effects on either impulsivity or memory.

"These data provide additional evidence supporting the notion that opioid-cannabinoid mixtures that are effective for treating pain do not have greater, and in some cases have less, adverse effects compared with larger doses of each drug alone," the study’s lead author said. "Combining opioid receptor agonists with drugs that relieve pain through actions at non-opioid mechanisms (for example, cannabinoid receptors) could be a useful strategy for reducing the dose of opioid needed to achieve pain relief."

Clinical data published last year by Columbia University researchers reported that the co-administration of inhaled cannabis and sub-therapeutic doses of oxycodone produces enhanced analgesic effects in human subjects. Authors stated that the results highlighted "the opioid-sparing effects of cannabis."

Their findings were similar to those of a 2011 clinical trial determining that vaporized cannabis interacts synergistically with opioids to induce pain relief and therefore "may allow for opioid treatment at lower doses with fewer side effects."

In jurisdictions where marijuana is legally available, patients frequently acknowledge reducing their use of conventional medications, specifically opioids and benzodiazepines, after initiating cannabis therapy.

For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director.