Antinociceptive effects of mixtures of mu opioid receptor agonists and cannabinoid receptor agonists in rats: Impact of drug and fixed-dose ratio
Pain is a significant clinical problem, and there is a need for effective pharmacotherapies with fewer adverse effects than currently available drugs (e.g., mu opioid receptor agonists). Cannabinoid receptor agonists enhance the antinociceptive effects of mu opioid receptor agonists, but it remains unclear which drugs and in what proportion will yield the most effective and safest treatments. The antinociceptive effects of the mu opioid receptor agonists etorphine and morphine alone and in combination with the cannabinoid receptor agonists Δ9-THC and CP55940 were studied in male Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 16) using a warm water tail withdrawal procedure. The ratio of opioid to cannabinoid (3:1, 1:1, and 1:3) varied for each mixture. Drugs administered alone or as pairwise mixtures of an opioid and a cannabinoid dose-dependently increased tail withdrawal latency. Mixtures with morphine produced supra-additive (CP55940) and additive (Δ9-THC) effects, whereas mixtures with etorphine and either cannabinoid were sub-additive. The interactions were not different among ratios for a particular mixture. The nature of the interaction between opioids and cannabinoids with regard to antinociceptive effects varies with the particular drugs in the mixture, which can have implications for designing combination therapies for pain.