Cannabinoids: potential targets for bladder dysfunction
Cannabinoids are the active chemical components of Cannabis sativa (marijuana). The medical use of cannabis goes back over 5,000 years. Cannabinoids produce a very wide array of central and peripheral effects, some of which may have beneficial clinical applications. The discovery of cannabinoid receptors has spawned great interest within the pharmaceutical industry with the hopes of capitalizing on the beneficial effects of cannabis without the unwanted psychotropic effects on the central and peripheral nervous system. This chapter presents an overview of the pharmacology of cannabinoids and their derivatives. It reviews the current literature on central and peripheral cannabinoid receptors as related to effects on the lower urinary tract and the role of these receptors in normal and abnormal urinary tract function. An objective evaluation of the published results of clinical trials of cannabis extracts for the treatment of bladder dysfunction resulting from multiple sclerosis is also presented. It is clear that cannabinoid receptors are present in the lower urinary tract as well as spinal and higher centers involved in lower urinary tract control. Systemic cannabinoids have effects on the lower urinary tract that may be able to become clinically useful; however, a much greater understanding of the mechanisms of cannabinoid receptors in control of the human lower urinary tract is necessary to facilitate development of novel cannabinoid drugs for treatment of pelvic disorders.