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Does Use Of Cannabis And Opioids Negatively Impact Ventilatory Control?

Leiden, The Netherlands: Cannabis inhalation in subjects pre-treated with oxycodone doesn’t negatively impact their breathing, according to clinical trial data published in the British Journal of Anesthesia.

Dutch investigators compared inhaled cannabis versus placebo in 18 healthy volunteers pre-treated with 20mgs of the prescription opioid oxycodone. Participants inhaled cannabis flower either 1.5 hours or 4.5 hours following opioid administration.

Researchers reported that the use of oxycodone alone was associated with depressed respiration. However, the combined use of THC and opioids failed to enhance this effect. “Our data do imply that oxycodone was solely responsible for the respiration depression in the oxycodone/THC arm of the study,” authors reported.

They concluded: “[I]n human volunteers, THC has no significant effect on ventilatory control after placebo or oxycodone pretreatment. This suggests that cannabinoid receptors do not interact with respiratory pathways in the brainstem, or that CB1 receptor activation is offset by an opposing effect at CB2 receptors.”

Unlike opioids, which are responsible for over 75,000 overdose deaths annually, cannabinoids are not defined as central nervous depressants and they are incapable of causing lethal overdose.

Controlled trials have shown that the co-administration of cannabis and opioids produces enhanced analgesic effects. Patients prescribed opioids typically reduce or eliminate their intake of opiate-based drugs following cannabis therapy.

Full text of the study, “Inhaled delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol does not enhance oxycodone-induced respiratory depression: Randomized controlled trial in healthy volunteers,” appears in the British Journal of AnesthesiaAdditional information is available from the NORML Fact Sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’

Source: NORMLmake a donation