Changes in [Ca++]i and cAMP were evaluated as possible mechanisms by which the cannabinoids enhance the antinociception of morphine. The addition of subactive concentrations of delta 9-(THC) and morphine in combination to brain synaptosomes did not result in an enhanced decrease in [Ca++]i; however, this drug combination enhanced decreases in [Ca++]i in spinal cord synaptosomes. The combination of CP55,940 and morphine produced enhanced decreases in [Ca++]i in both brain and spinal cord synaptosomes. In brain synaptosomes, the combination of delta 9-THC and morphine produced an additive decrease in cAMP accumulation, whereas no significant change was observed with this combination in the spinal cord. Thus, the difference in the modulation of [Ca++]i but not cAMP in the brain in vitro may be a predictor of the greater-than-additive antinociceptive effects observe in vivo.