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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1989 May;249(2):444-9.

Psychoactive cannabinoids reduce gastrointestinal propulsion and motility in rodents.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, University of Arizona, Tucson.


Marijuana has been reported to be an effective antinauseant and antiemetic in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. Whether this is due to psychological changes, central antiemetic properties and/or direct effects on gastrointestinal (GI) function is not known. The purpose of these investigations was to determine whether the major constituents of marijuana and the synthetic cannabinoid nabilone have any effects on GI function which can be detected in rodent models of GI transit and motility. Intravenous delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta 9-THC) slowed the rate of gastric emptying and small intestinal transit in mice and in rats. Delta 9,11-THC, cannabinol and nabilone given i.v. also inhibited small intestinal transit in mice, but were less effective in reducing gastric emptying. Cannabidiol given i.v. had no effect on gastric emptying or intestinal transit. Those cannabinoids which inhibited GI transit did so at doses equal to, or lower, than those reported to produce central nervous system activity. In rats, delta 9-THC produced greater inhibition of gastric emptying and small intestinal transit than large bowel transit, indicating a selectivity for the more proximal sections of the gut. In addition, i.v. delta 9-THC decreased the frequency of both gastric and intestinal contractions without altering intraluminal pressure. Such changes probably reflect a decrease in propulsive activity, without change in basal tone. These data indicate that delta 9-THC, delta 9,11-THC, cannabinol and nabilone (but not cannabidiol) exert an inhibitory effect on GI transit and motility in rats.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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