Pharmacology of cannabinoids

Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2004 Feb-Apr;25(1-2):14-23.


Dronabinol (Delta 9-tetrahydocannabinol, THC), the main source of the pharmacological effects caused by the use of cannabis, is an agonist to both the CB1 and the CB2 subtype of cannabinoid receptors. It is available on prescription in several countries. The non-psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD), some analogues of natural cannabinoids and their metabolites, antagonists at the cannabinoid receptors and modulators of the endogenous cannabinoid system are also promising candidates for clinical research and therapeutic uses. Cannabinoid receptors are distributed in the central nervous system and many peripheral tissues including spleen, leukocytes; reproductive, urinary and gastrointestinal tracts; endocrine glands, arteries and heart. Five endogenous cannabinoids have been detected so far, of whom anandamide and 2-arachidonylglycerol are best characterized. There is evidence that besides the two cannabinoid receptor subtypes cloned so far additional cannabinoid receptor subtypes and vanilloid receptors are involved in the complex physiological functions of the cannabinoid system that include motor coordination, memory procession, control of appetite, pain modulation and neuroprotection. Strategies to modulate their activity include inhibition of re-uptake into cells and inhibition of their degradation to increase concentration and duration of action. Properties of cannabinoids that might be of therapeutic use include analgesia, muscle relaxation, immunosuppression, anti-inflammation, anti-allergic effects, sedation, improvement of mood, stimulation of appetite, anti-emesis, lowering of intraocular pressure, bronchodilation, neuroprotection and antineoplastic effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / physiology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Psychotropic Drugs / toxicity
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / agonists


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Dronabinol