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Neurosci Lett. 1997 Feb 21;223(2):125-8.

Endogenous cannabinoids as an aversive or counter-rewarding system in the rat.

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  • 1Schrier Reséarch Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Human use of marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is widely assumed to have rewarding properties, a notion supported by its widespread recreational use. However, no study has clearly demonstrated such effects in animal models. The purpose of this study was to test for the presumed rewarding effect of cannabinoids using a conditioned place preference paradigm. The results showed that animals failed to develop place conditioning at a low dose (1.5 mg/kg) and developed a place aversion at a high dose (15 mg/kg) of the active principle in marijuana, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC), a finding consistent with most previous studies. Moreover, the administration of the cannabinoid antagonist SR141716A induced a conditioned place preference at both a low (0.5 mg/kg) and a high (5 mg/kg) dose. In summary, cannabinoid antagonism produced place preference while cannabinoid agonism induced place aversion. These results suggest that endogenous cannabinoids serve normally to suppress reward or to induce aversion.

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