Marijuana (Cannabinoids)Pain

Using acetaminophen to get safer cannabinoid effects

Dr. John Ashton from the University of Otago in New Zealand tells an interesting story about the potential for acetaminophen (paracetamol; Tylenol) to act as a “better” cannabinoid.

With further research, acetaminophen might be used as a prodrug to achieve safe and effective pain relief at the cannabinoid receptor.

A prodrug, of course, is a drug (often inactive by itself) that is metabolized by the body to become an active chemical that accomplishes the intended effect.

Here’s the problem?

  • The development of medicinal cannabinoids has several problems.
    • The psychoactivity of cannabinoid CB1 receptor stimulators
    • Lack of ability to target specific cannabinoid receptors in the body
  • Activation of all cannabinoid receptors is usually undesirable, but the ability to target specific receptors might be beneficial.
  • Existing cannabinoid-type drugs fail in this regard.

What to do?

  • It’s been discovery that acetaminophen’s ability to lessen pain, and probably its ability to bring down a fever, is due, in part, to its metabolism into a cannabinoid type chemical called N-arachidonoylphenolamine (AM404).
  • Thus, acetaminophen acts as a type of pro-drug for indirect cannabinoid effects.

The bottom line?
Given the effectiveness and safety of acetaminophen, the challenge is to develop related drugs with a similar safety profile to acetaminophen that will be metabolized into a chemical such as AM404 that targets the cannabinoid pain receptor without the psychological side effects.

The CAM connection?

It’s another example of the potential for well-designed research of “CAM” (marijuana) can lead to new drugs and better medicine.

11/8/08 11:39 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.