Pharmacological and biochemical interactions between opioids and cannabinoids

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1999 Jul;20(7):287-94. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(99)01339-5.


Opioids and cannabinoids are among the most widely consumed drugs of abuse in humans. A number of studies have shown that both types of drugs share several pharmacological properties, including hypothermia, sedation, hypotension, inhibition of both intestinal motility and locomotor activity and, in particular, antinociception. Moreover, phenomena of cross-tolerance or mutual potentiation of some of these pharmacological effects have been reported. In recent years, these phenomena have supported the possible existence of functional links in the mechanisms of action of both types of drugs. The present review addresses the recent advances in the study of pharmacological interactions between opioids and cannabinoids, focusing on two aspects: antinociception and drug addiction. The potential biochemical mechanisms involved in these pharmacological interactions are also discussed together with possible therapeutic implications of opioid-cannabinoid interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Narcotics / metabolism*
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Nociceptors / drug effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Narcotics