Spinal and peripheral mechanisms of cannabinoid antinociception: behavioral, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical perspectives

Chem Phys Lipids. 2002 Dec 31;121(1-2):173-90. doi: 10.1016/s0009-3084(02)00154-8.


A large body of literature indicates that cannabinoids suppress behavioral responses to acute and persistent noxious stimulation. This review examines behavioral, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical evidence supporting a role for cannabinoids in suppressing nociceptive transmission at spinal and peripheral levels. The development of subtype-selective competitive antagonists and high-affinity agonists provides the pharmacological tools required to study cannabinoid antinociceptive mechanisms. These studies provide insight into the functional roles of cannabinoid receptor subtypes, CB1 and CB2, in cannabinoid antinociceptive mechanisms as revealed in animal models of acute and persistent (somatic inflammatory, visceral inflammatory, neuropathic) pain. Localization studies employing receptor binding and quantitative autoradiography, immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization are reviewed to examine the distribution of cannabinoid receptors at these levels and provide a neuroanatomical framework with which to understand the roles of endogenous cannabinoids in sensory processing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Cannabinoids / agonists
  • Cannabinoids / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Nociceptors / drug effects*
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System / anatomy & histology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug / agonists
  • Receptors, Drug / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Drug / classification
  • Receptors, Drug / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord / anatomy & histology
  • Spinal Cord / drug effects*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Receptors, Drug