Effects of daily delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol treatment on heroin self-administration in rhesus monkeys

Behav Pharmacol. 2016 Apr;27(2-3 Spec Issue):249-57. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0000000000000192.


Opioid abuse remains a significant public health problem; together with the greater availability of marijuana in some regions there is an increasing likelihood that opioids and marijuana will be used together. Polydrug abuse is associated with increased toxicity and poorer treatment outcome; thus, a better understanding of the consequences of repeated coadministration of these drugs will facilitate the development of better prevention and treatment strategies. This study examined the effects of daily treatment with the cannabinoid receptor agonist delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-THC) and its discontinuation on self-administration of heroin in rhesus monkeys (n=4) lever-pressing under a fixed-ratio 30 schedule. Heroin self-administration (0.32-32 μg/kg/infusion, intravenously) generated an inverted U-shaped dose-effect curve. Administered acutely, Δ-THC (0.01-0.32 mg/kg, subcutaneously) dose dependently decreased responding for heroin and flattened the self-administration dose-effect curve. Daily treatment with Δ-THC (0.01-0.1 mg/kg/12 h, subcutaneously) either had no effect on or decreased responding for heroin. In addition, daily treatment did not significantly impact extinction of heroin self-administration or resumption of responding for heroin after extinction. Discontinuation of daily Δ-THC treatment did not systematically impact rates of heroin self-administration. These data suggest that repeated administration of a cannabinoid receptor agonist likely does not increase, and possibly decreases, the positive reinforcing effects of a mu opioid receptor agonist.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / therapeutic use*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Heroin / administration & dosage*
  • Heroin Dependence / drug therapy*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Narcotics / administration & dosage*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self Administration


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Narcotics
  • Heroin
  • Dronabinol