Cannabinoid-Induced Inhibition of Morphine Glucuronidation and the Potential for In Vivo Drug-Drug Interactions

Pharmaceutics. 2024 Mar 18;16(3):418. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics16030418.


Opioids are commonly prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain. Approximately 50% of adults who are prescribed opioids for pain co-use cannabis with their opioid treatment. Morphine is primarily metabolized by UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 2B7 to an inactive metabolite, morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G), and an active metabolite, morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G). Previous studies have shown that major cannabis constituents including Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) inhibit major UGT enzymes. To examine whether cannabinoids or their major metabolites inhibit morphine glucuronidation by UGT2B7, in vitro assays and mechanistic static modeling were performed with these cannabinoids and their major metabolites including 11-hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), 11-nor-9-carboxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-COOH-THC), 7-hydroxy-cannabidiol (7-OH-CBD), and 7-carboxy-cannabidiol (7-COOH-CBD). In vitro assays with rUGT-overexpressing microsomes and human liver microsomes showed that THC and CBD and their metabolites inhibited UGT2B7-mediated morphine metabolism, with CBD and THC exhibiting the most potent Ki,u values (0.16 µM and 0.37 µM, respectively). Only 7-COOH-CBD exhibited no inhibitory activity against UGT2B7-mediated morphine metabolism. Static mechanistic modeling predicted an in vivo drug-drug interaction between morphine and THC after inhaled cannabis, and between THC, CBD, and 7-OH-CBD after oral consumption of cannabis. These data suggest that the co-use of these agents may lead to adverse drug events in humans.

Keywords: AUCR; CBD; IVIVE; THC; UGT; cannabinoids; cannabis; drug–drug interactions; morphine; opioids.