Controlled studies of the therapeutic effects of cannabis: The science beyond the craze
Dr. Ziva Cooper
Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia University
Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute
The use of cannabis for medical purposes is gaining widespread acceptance despite the paucity of controlled studies investigating its potential therapeutic effects. Simultaneously, rates of cannabis use disorder (CUD) are increasing. This talk will focus on a line of research we have developed conducted in the human psychopharmacology laboratory. This research specifically addresses both the potential therapeutic and adverse effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. I will discuss a series of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies that have been designed to investigate variables that impact the analgesic effects of cannabinoids in volunteers; the primary indication for which medical cannabis is used. The first study established the dose-, time-, and route-dependent analgesic effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, using a laboratory-based model of pain, the Cold-Pressor Test. These findings provided the foundation for subsequent human laboratory studies investigating 1) sex-dependent differences and 2) opioid modulation of cannabinoid-induced analgesia and abuse-related effects. The talk will conclude with a discussion on the necessity of evidence-based approaches to assess the therapeutic utility of cannabinoids, while also investigating variables to mitigate their abuse-related effects that contribute to CUD.
Dr. Ziva Cooper is an Associate Professor of Clinical Neurobiology and Director of the Synthetic Cannabis ('Spice') Laboratory in the Department of Psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University where she focuses on preclinical and clinical studies on the effects of psychoactive drugs. She received her Ph.D from the University of Michigan in Biopsychology, where she studied the abuse liability, analgesic effects, and toxicity of drugs in laboratory animals including opioids and cocaine. In 2009, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Division on Substance Abuse at Columbia University studying human behavioral pharmacology of cannabinoids and opioids. Her current research involves understanding the neurobiological, pharmacological, and behavioral variables that influence both the therapeutic potential and abuse liability of cannabinoids (cannabis, CB1 receptor agonists, and cannabidiol) and opioids.