Role of cannabinoid receptor in the brain
as it relates to drug reward

Yamamoto T, Takada K
Department of Pharmacology,
Graduate school of Pharmaceutical Sciences,
Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.
Jpn J Pharmacol 2000 Nov; 84(3):229-36


Understanding of cannabinoid (CB) actions has been remarkably advanced during the last decade, due mainly to the identification of the G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors, namely, CB1 receptors that are predominantly found in the brain and CB2 receptors that are exclusively found in peripheral tissues. Endogenous ligands for these receptors have also been identified. Research to date suggests that the analgesic effect of cannabinoids and the enhancement of opioid analgesia by cannabinoids are both CB1 receptor-mediated via the activation of opioid receptors. The involvement of the CB1 receptor in mediating reinforcing and physical dependence-producing effects of opioids has also been suggested, with the former being considered the result of interaction with the dopaminergic neurotransmission in the midbrain dopamine system. However, the discriminative stimulus effects of cannabinoids have been reported to be highly specific in that the effects were not substituted by other classes of compounds including opioidergic and dopaminergic agents nor were they antagonized by antagonists of various neurotransmission systems, suggesting that the discriminative stimulus effects only involve the cannabinoid system. Thus the cannabinoid actions appear to be classifiable into at least two kinds: 1) those mediated directly through cannabinoid receptors and 2) those mediated indirectly through other systems such as opioidergic systems. Detailed research into these actions may help to elucidate not only the mechanisms of action of exogenous cannabinoids but also the role of endogenous cannabinoids, especially in the brain reward system.

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