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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1991 Nov;40(3):593-8.

Effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol exposure on adrenal medullary function: evidence of an acute effect and development of tolerance in chronic treatments.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain.


Previous studies have shown that the secretion of several stress-related hormones can be altered by exposure to marihuana or its purified constituents. The purpose of this study was to examine changes in adrenal medullary function caused by acute, subchronic and chronic treatments with two different doses of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Acute exposure to THC caused a significant decrease in the adrenal medulla contents of both norepinephrine (NE) and epinephrine (E) and a significant increase in the E/NE ratio. These effects were mainly observed with the highest dose of THC, but they were not accompanied by a statistically significant decrease in adrenal medulla tyrosine hydroxylase activity, the rate-limiting enzyme in the catecholamine (CA) synthesis. These effects disappeared after seven or fourteen days of a daily THC treatment, which suggests the development of tolerance to this drug. Analysis of plasma PRL, ACTH and corticosterone levels showed some THC-related changes in these hormones. THC-induced modifications in ACTH and corticosterone were not in parallel to the changes in the adrenal medulla function, whereas those effects of acute THC on PRL release were statistically correlated with decreases of CA contents following acute THC. In conclusion, acute exposure to THC caused an alteration in the adrenal medullary function, reflected by a fall in endogenous stores of both CAs which could influence the adrenal medullary response to stress situations. This acute effect of THC could be mediated by the pituitary secretion of PRL, although the possibility of an effect directly exerted on the adrenal medulla chromaffin cells should be also considered.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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