Medicinal cannabis: is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects?
Wilkinson, J.D., Whalley, B. J., Baker, D., Pryce, G., Constanti, A., Gibbons, S. and Williamson, E. M. (2003) Medicinal cannabis: is delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol necessary for all its effects? Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 55 (12). pp. 1687-1694. ISSN 0022-3573
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1211/0022357022304
Cannabis is under clinical investigation to assess its potential for medicinal use, but the question arises as to whether there is any advantage in using cannabis extracts compared with isolated Delta9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta9THC), the major psychoactive component. We have compared the effect of a standardized cannabis extract (SCE) with pure Delta9THC, at matched concentrations of Delta9THC, and also with a Delta9THC-free extract (Delta9THC-free SCE), using two cannabinoid-sensitive models, a mouse model of multiple sclerosis (MS), and an in-vitro rat brain slice model of epilepsy. Whilst SCE inhibited spasticity in the mouse model of MS to a comparable level, it caused a more rapid onset of muscle relaxation, and a reduction in the time to maximum effect compared with Delta9THC alone. The Delta9THC-free extract or cannabidiol (CBD) caused no inhibition of spasticity. However, in the in-vitro epilepsy model, in which sustained epileptiform seizures were induced by the muscarinic receptor agonist oxotremorine-M in immature rat piriform cortical brain slices, SCE was a more potent and again more rapidly-acting anticonvulsant than isolated Delta9THC, but in this model, the Delta9THC-free extract also exhibited anticonvulsant activity. Cannabidiol did not inhibit seizures, nor did it modulate the activity of Delta9THC in this model. Therefore, as far as some actions of cannabis were concerned (e.g. antispasticity), Delta9THC was the active constituent, which might be modified by the presence of other components. However, for other effects (e.g. anticonvulsant properties) Delta9THC, although active, might not be necessary for the observed effect. Above all, these results demonstrated that not all of the therapeutic actions of cannabis herb might be due to the Delta9THC content
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