The therapeutic potential of the cannabinoids in neuroprotection

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2002 Oct;11(10):1365-74. doi: 10.1517/13543784.11.10.1365.


After thousands of years of interest the last few decades have seen a huge increase in our knowledge of the cannabinoids and their mode of action. Their potential as medical therapeutics has long been known. However, very real concerns over their safety and efficacy have lead to caution and suspicion when applying the legislature of modern medicine to these compounds. The ability of this diverse family of compounds to modulate neurotransmission and act as anti-inflammatory and antioxidative agents has prompted researchers to investigate their potential as neuroprotective agents. Indeed, various cannabinoids rescue dying neurones in experimental forms of acute neuronal injury, such as cerebral ischaemia and traumatic brain injury. Cannabinoids also provide symptomatic relief in experimental models of chronic neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Huntington's disease. This preclinical evidence has provided the impetus for the launch of a number of clinical trials in various conditions of neurodegeneration and neuronal injury using compounds derived from the cannabis plant. Our understanding of cannabinoid neurobiology, however, must improve if we are to effectively exploit this system and take advantage of the numerous characteristics that make this group of compounds potential neuroprotective agents.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / chemistry
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical / trends*


  • Cannabinoids
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug