We have evaluated the effect of cannabinoid drugs, administered intraperitoneally (i.p.) or intracerebroventricularly (i.c.v.) on upper gastrointestinal transit in control and in croton oil-treated mice. The cannabinoid agonists, WIN 55,212-2 (2-239 nmol mouse(-1)) and cannabinol (24-4027 nmol mouse(-1)), decreased while the CB(1) antagonist SR141716A (2-539 nmol mouse(-1)) increased transit in control mice. WIN 55,212-2, cannabinol and SR141716A had lower ED(50) values when administered i.c.v., than when administered i.p. The CB(2) antagonist SR144528 (52 nmol mouse(-1), i.p.) was without effect. During croton oil (0.01 ml mouse(-1), p.o.)-induced diarrhoea, the ED(50) values of i.p. -injected WIN 55,212-2 and cannabinol (but not SR141716A) were significantly decreased (compared to control mice). However, the ED(50) values of WIN 55,212-2 were similar after i.p. or i.c.v. administration. The inhibitory effects of WIN 55,212-2 and cannabinol were counteracted by SR141716A (16 nmol mouse(-1), i.p.) but not by SR144528 (52 nmol mouse(-1), i.p.) both in control and croton-oil treated mice. Ganglionic blockade with hexamethonium (69 nmol mouse(-1), i.p.) did not modify the inhibitory effect of i.p. -injected cannabinoid agonists either in control or in croton-oil treated mice. The lower ED(50) values of cannabinoid drugs after i.c.v. administration suggest a central (CB(1)) site of action. However, a peripheral site of action is suggested by the lack of effect of hexamethonium. In addition, croton oil-induced diarrhoea enhances the effect of cannabinoid agonists by a peripheral mechanism.