Circulating Endocannabinoids and N-Acylethanolamines in Individuals with Cannabis Use Disorder-Preliminary Findings

Brain Sci. 2023 Sep 27;13(10):1375. doi: 10.3390/brainsci13101375.


BACKGROUND: Endocannabinoids and related N-acylethanolamines (NAEs) are bioactive lipids with important physiological functions and putative roles in mental health and addictions. Although chronic cannabis use is associated with endocannabinoid system changes, the status of circulating endocannabinoids and related NAEs in people with cannabis use disorder (CUD) is uncertain.

METHODS: Eleven individuals with CUD and 54 healthy non-cannabis using control participants (HC) provided plasma for measurement by high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry of endocannabinoids (2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) and N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA)) and related NAE fatty acids (N-docosahexaenoylethanolamine (DHEA) and N-oleoylethanolamine (OEA)). Participants were genotyped for the functional gene variant of FAAH (rs324420, C385A) which may affect concentrations of AEA as well as other NAEs (OEA, DHEA).

RESULTS: In overnight abstinent CUD, AEA, OEA and DHEA concentrations were significantly higher (31-40%; p < 0.05) and concentrations of the endocannabinoid 2-AG were marginally elevated (55%, p = 0.13) relative to HC. There were no significant correlations between endocannabinoids/NAE concentrations and cannabis analytes, self-reported cannabis use frequency or withdrawal symptoms. DHEA concentration was inversely related with marijuana craving (r = -0.86; p = 0.001). Genotype had no significant effect on plasma endocannabinoids/NAE concentrations.

CONCLUSIONS: Our preliminary findings, requiring replication, might suggest that activity of the endocannabinoid system is elevated in chronic cannabis users. It is unclear whether this elevation is a compensatory response or a predating state. Studies examining endocannabinoids and NAEs during prolonged abstinence as well as the potential role of DHEA in craving are warranted.

PMID:37891745 | DOI:10.3390/brainsci13101375