RATIONALE: Humans typically self-administer cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) together repeatedly (as in cannabis, cannabis extract, or Sativex®) to relieve pain. It has been suggested that one benefit of the drug combination may be decreased tolerance development.
OBJECTIVE: The present study compared the development of tolerance to the antinociceptive effects of THC given alone versus combined with CBD, in rats.
METHODS: THC dose-effect curves on tail withdrawal and paw pressure tests were obtained before and after twice-daily treatment with vehicle or CBD (10 mg/kg), plus vehicle or THC (3.6 mg/kg females; 9.3 mg/kg males) for 4 days.
RESULTS: On the first day, THC was more potent in females than males on both nociceptive tests. From pre- to post-chronic (day 1 to day 6), THC potency on the tail withdrawal test decreased more in females than males, and rats that had been treated with CBD + THC repeatedly showed greater rightward/downward shifts of the THC dose-effect curve than rats that had been treated with THC alone. Analysis of blood samples taken after day 6 testing showed that serum THC levels were higher in CBD + THC-treated females than in vehicle + THC-treated females, and THC's active metabolite 11-OH-THC and its inactive metabolite THC-COOH were lower in CBD + THC-treated rats than in vehicle + THC-treated rats of both sexes. CBD also increased serum levels of the active metabolite cannabinol in both sexes.
CONCLUSION: The decrease in THC's antinociceptive effects after repeated CBD exposure may be due to CBD-induced inhibition of THC metabolism, and/or antagonism of THC effects that emerges with repeated CBD treatment.