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Distinct interactions of cannabidiol and morphine in three nociceptive behavioral models in mice

Neelakantan, Harshinia; Tallarida, Ronald J.b; Reichenbach, Zachary W.b; Tuma, Ronald F.b; Ward, Sara J.b; Walker, Ellen A.a,b

doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000119

Cannabinoid and opioid agonists can display overlapping behavioral effects and the combination of these agonists is known to produce enhanced antinociception in several rodent models of acute and chronic pain. The present study investigated the antinociceptive effects of the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) and the µ-opioid agonist morphine, both alone and in combination, using three behavioral models in mice, to test the hypothesis that combinations of morphine and CBD would produce synergistic effects. The effects of morphine, CBD, and morphine/CBD combinations were assessed in the following assays: (a) acetic acid-stimulated stretching; (b) acetic acid-decreased operant responding for palatable food; and (c) hot plate thermal nociception. Morphine alone produced antinociceptive effects in all three models of acute nociception, whereas CBD alone produced antinociception only in the acetic acid-stimulated stretching assay. The nature of the interactions between morphine and CBD combinations were assessed quantitatively based on the principle of dose equivalence. Combinations of CBD and morphine produced synergistic effects in reversing acetic acid-stimulated stretching behavior, but subadditive effects in the hot plate thermal nociceptive assay and the acetic acid-decreased operant responding for palatable food assay. These results suggest that distinct mechanisms of action underlie the interactions between CBD and morphine in the three different behavioral assays and that the choice of appropriate combination therapies for the treatment of acute pain conditions may depend on the underlying pain type and stimulus modality.

aDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy

bCenter for Substance Abuse Research, School of Medicine, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence to Harshini Neelakantan, PhD, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Temple University, 3307 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA E-mail:

Received September 26, 2013

Accepted October 23, 2014

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