The neuropsychopharmacology of cannabis: a review of human imaging studies

Michael A P Bloomfield, Chandni Hindocha, Sebastian F Green, Matthew B Wall, Rachel Lees, Katherine Petrilli, Harry Costello, M Olabisi Ogunbiyi, Matthijs G Bossong, Tom P Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

150 Citations (SciVal)


The laws governing cannabis are evolving worldwide and associated with changing patterns of use. The main psychoactive drug in cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a partial agonist at the endocannabinoid CB1 receptor. Acutely, cannabis and THC produce a range of effects on several neurocognitive and pharmacological systems. These include effects on executive, emotional, reward and memory processing via direct interactions with the endocannabinoid system and indirect effects on the glutamatergic, GABAergic and dopaminergic systems. Cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in some forms of cannabis, may offset some of these acute effects. Heavy repeated cannabis use, particularly during adolescence, has been associated with adverse effects on these systems, which increase the risk of mental illnesses including addiction and psychosis. Here, we provide a comprehensive state of the art review on the acute and chronic neuropsychopharmacology of cannabis by synthesizing the available neuroimaging research in humans. We describe the effects of drug exposure during development, implications for understanding psychosis and cannabis use disorder, and methodological considerations. Greater understanding of the precise mechanisms underlying the effects of cannabis may also give rise to new treatment targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-161
Number of pages30
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Addiction
  • Cannabis
  • Cognition
  • Development
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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