Cannabinoids hold potential therapeutic use in alcohol-related problems, according to a new study being published in the journal Alcohol, and epublished ahead of print by the U.S. National Institute of Health.

The motivational circuit activated by ethanol leads to behavioral changes that recruit the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Case reports and observational studies suggest that the use of Cannabis sp. mitigates problematic ethanol consumption in humans. Here, we verified the effects of the two main phytocannabinoid compounds of Cannabis sp., cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in the expression of ethanol-induced locomotor sensitization in mice.

Male adult DBA/2 mice were exposed to locomotor sensitization by daily intraperitoneal injections of ethanol (2.5 g/kg) for 12 days; control groups received saline. After the acquisition phase, animals were treated with cannabinoids: CBD (2.5 mg/kg); THC (2.5 mg/kg); CBD + THC (1:1 ratio), or vehicle for 4 days with no access to ethanol during this period.

One day after the last cannabinoid injection, all animals were challenged with ethanol (2.0 g/kg) to evaluate the expression of the locomotor sensitization. Mice treated with THC alone or THC + CBD showed reduced expression of locomotor sensitization, compared to the vehicle control group. No effects were observed with CBD treatment alone.

Our findings showing that phytocannabinoid treatment prevents the expression of behavioral sensitization in mice provide insight into the potential therapeutic use of phytocannabinoids in alcohol-related problems.