Chronic pain affects a significant percentage of the United States population, and available pain medications like opioids have drawbacks that make long-term use untenable. Cannabinoids show promise in the management of pain, but long-term treatment of pain with cannabinoids has been challenging to implement in preclinical models. We developed a voluntary, gelatin oral self-administration paradigm that allowed male and female mice to consume ∆9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, or morphine ad libitum. Mice stably consumed these gelatins over 3 weeks, with detectable serum levels. Using a real-time gelatin measurement system, we observed that mice consumed gelatin throughout the light and dark cycles, with animals consuming less THC-gelatin than the other gelatin groups. Consumption of all three gelatins reduced measures of allodynia in a chronic, neuropathic sciatic nerve injury model, but tolerance to morphine developed after 1 week while THC or CBD reduced allodynia over three weeks. Hyperalgesia gradually developed after sciatic nerve injury, and by the last day of testing, THC significantly reduced hyperalgesia, with a trend effect of CBD, and no effect of morphine. Mouse vocalizations were recorded throughout the experiment, and mice showed a large increase in ultrasonic, broadband clicks after sciatic nerve injury, which was reversed by THC, CBD, and morphine. This study demonstrates that mice voluntarily consume both cannabinoids and opioids via gelatin, and that cannabinoids provide long-term relief of chronic pain states. In addition, ultrasonic clicks may objectively represent mouse pain status and could be integrated into future pain models.
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We thank Sanne Casello for assistance with surgery, Dr. Charles Chavkin for experimental support, Dr. Nephi Stella for critical review of the paper, and the Mass Spectrometry facility at the University of Washington for serum processing.
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Abraham, A.D., Leung, E.J.Y., Wong, B.A. et al. Orally consumed cannabinoids provide long-lasting relief of allodynia in a mouse model of chronic neuropathic pain. Neuropsychopharmacol. 45, 1105–1114 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41386-019-0585-3
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