International forskning

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol modulates pain sensitivity among persons receiving opioid agonist therapy for opioid use disorder: A within-subject, randomized, placebo-controlled laboratory study

Joao P De Aquino 1 2 3, Julia Meyerovich 1 2, Catherine Z Xie 4, Mohini Ranganathan 1 2, Peggy Compton 5, Brian Pittman 1, Michael Rogan 1 2, Mehmet Sofuoglu 1 2

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
  • 2VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut, USA.
  • 3Clinical Neuroscience Research Unit, Connecticut Mental Health Center, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
  • 4Department of Psychology, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA.
  • 5Department of Family and Community Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


The opioid and cannabinoid receptor systems are inextricably linked-overlapping at the anatomical, functional and behavioural levels. Preclinical studies have reported that cannabinoid and opioid agonists produce synergistic antinociceptive effects. Still, there are no experimental data on the effects of cannabinoid agonists among humans who receive opioid agonist therapies for opioid use disorder (OUD). We conducted an experimental study to investigate the acute effects of the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) among persons receiving methadone therapy for OUD. Using a within-subject, crossover, human laboratory design, 25 persons on methadone therapy for OUD (24% women) were randomly assigned to receive single oral doses of THC (10 or 20 mg, administered as dronabinol) or placebo, during three separate 5-h test sessions. Measures of experimental and self-reported pain sensitivity, abuse potential, cognitive performance and physiological effects were collected. Mixed-effects models examined the main effects of THC dose and interactions between THC (10 and 20 mg) and methadone doses (low-dose methadone defined as 90 mg/day). Results demonstrated that, for self-reported rather than experimental pain sensitivity measures, 10 mg THC provided greater relief than 20 mg THC, with no substantial evidence of abuse potential, and inconsistent dose-dependent cognitive adverse effects. There was no indication of any interaction between THC and methadone doses. Collectively, these results provide valuable insights for future studies aiming to evaluate the risk-benefit profile of cannabinoids to relieve pain among individuals receiving opioid agonist therapy for OUD, a timely endeavour amidst the opioid crisis.