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Ziva Cooper, PhD

Dr. Ziva Cooper is the Director of the UCLA Center for Cannabis and Cannabinoids in the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Professor-in-Residence in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at David Geffen School of Medicine. Her current research involves understanding variables that influence both the therapeutic potential and adverse effects of cannabis and cannabinoids through double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.  Current funded projects include 1) understanding differences between men and women in their  response to  the abuse-related and pain-relieving effects, and the role that circulating hormones and endocannabinoids contribute to these differences, 2) the potential for THC and CBD to reduce reliance on opioids,  3) impact of cannabis use on HIV-associated inflammation, and 4) the effectiveness of cannabidiol to address symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis.  Dr. Cooper strives to incorporate a translational approach to understating both the potential therapeutic and adverse effects associated with cannabis and cannabinoids.  For more details about each of Dr. Cooper’s studies, toggle the options below.

Active Studies

  • “Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Studies of the Potential Theraputic and Adverse Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids” and other studies”

Funded by: NIH / NIDA (R21 DA046614)

Role: Principal Investigator (MPI: Dr. Cooper [PI] and Dr. Arout [PD/PI])                                   

Over half of patients using medical cannabis for pain also use prescription opioids, yet there is an absence of data pertaining to the abuse liability and analgesic effects of this combination. This study will elucidate the analgesic and adverse effects of two cannabinoids, THC and CBD, when administrated alone or in combination.  This study will also determine how CBD and THC  may synergize with opioids to increase the pain-relieving effects of very low opioid doses, avoiding the negative effects of higher opioid doses. The timeliness of this proposal is critical, particularly given the current opioid crisis in the U.S., along with concurrent restrictions placed on opioid prescribing practices and increased legalization and use of medical cannabis.

Funded by: UCLA AIDS Institute, UCLA Center for AIDS Research (AI28697) and UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute NCATS (UL1TR001881)

Role: Principal Investigator

Widespread legislative changes and increasing cannabis use have led to the emergence of numerous cannabis-based products that have disparate effects on behavior and physiology. Persons living with HIV (PLWH) have historically been, and continue to be, a focus of ongoing cannabis public health discussion. While stimulant drug use is associated with greater immune activation in HIV-positive users cannabis appears to have an anti-inflammatory effects. However, there is a paucity of data related to the impact of mode of cannabis administration on HIV-related inflammation. Oral and smoked cannabis produce profound differences in their immediate physiological, cognitive, and intoxicating effects and the pharmacokinetics of cannabis components differs as a function of administration route. Investigating HIV-related outcomes as a function of both cannabis use and mode of administration is an immediate public health concern as use will likely continue to increase and novel methods of administration will gain popularity.

This cross-sectional study will probe the impact of method of cannabis use (smoked versus oral use) on inflammatory and immune biomarkers in HIV-positive individuals. Findings from this study will be essential in understanding 1) how to counsel PLWH on the health effects of cannabis and 2) cannabis’s potential medicinal utility in HIV-associated inflammation.

Funded by: NIH / NIDA (R01 DA047296)

Role: Principal Investigator

Rates of cannabis use and abuse are rapidly increasing among women to historic numbers.  Animal studies reveal while females are more sensitive to the pain-relieving benefits of  delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) , the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, they are also more sensitive to the negative effects.  This clinical study will examine if and why men and women respond differently to the pain relieving and addictive properties of cannabis compounds and the contribution of endocannabinoids to these differences.  These insights will be essential in informing sex-specific public health approaches related to medical and non-medical cannabis use.

Funded by: Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (648557)

Role: Principal Investigator (MPI: Dr. Cooper [PI] and Dr. Ranganath [PD/PI])

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a rare autoimmune destructive arthritic disease, affecting 0.5-1% of the total population. RA patients suffer from joint pain, joint deformity, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, impaired function, and decreased quality of life. Presently, there is no cure for RA and clinical remission is only achieved by 1-33% patients. There is a critical need for non-toxic, well tolerated, and efficacious adjunctive medications that can aide in the treatment of the RA patient to reduce pain and inflammation-induced joint damage. Preclinical studies support the potential novel clinical utility of cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant, as a safe and effective pharmacotherapy for RA. The overall goal of this proof-of-principle proposal is to examine the efficacy and safety of CBD treatment as adjunctive to the medical management of RA patients with moderate to severe disease activity. The results of this study will inform a future larger clinical trial to apprise the public and physicians on whether CBD truly reduces RA synovial inflammation.

Funded by: NIH / NICCH (R01 1AT010762)

Role: Principal Investigator 

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, holds promise as a novel therapeutic candidate to treat chronic pain. However, analgesia is accompanied by intoxication and abuse liability, thus limiting its clinical utility. Terpenes are organic compounds that contribute to the aromatic nature of cannabis; it has been hypothesized that they interact synergistically with THC to enhance therapeutic outcomes while reducing negative effects. Specifically, terpenes may increase the analgesic effects of low, minimally intoxicating, doses of THC, and/or reduce adverse consequences of higher doses. Preclinical research demonstrates that the terpenes myrcene and ß-caryophyllene (BCP) elicit antinociceptive effects and may have opioid-sparing properties. These effects are, in part, mediated by the mu-opioid receptor. It is unknown if these findings translate to humans. Understanding if these terpenes have analgesic properties alone, or in combination with THC, is fundamental to developing novel cannabinoid-based therapeutics to treat pain. Investigating adverse effects of these terpenes (abuse liability, intoxication) will further clarify their clinical potential. At a time when pharmacotherapeutic strategies to decrease reliance on opioids for pain relief are desperately needed, probing the 1) analgesic effects, 2) potential THC- and opioid-sparing properties, and 3) mechanism of these terpenes is of significant interest. These double-blind, placebo-controlled studies will be the first to assess the analgesic, subjective effects, and pharmacokinetics of these two terpenes alone and in combination with THC in volunteers. The opioid-sparing properties of these terpenes will also be established. Findings from these studies will be integral in developing these terpenes as innovative therapeutics to treat pain to aid in the effort to decrease reliance on opioids as analgesics.    

Funded by: California Bureau of Cannabis Control (RG-1602887018-369)

Role: Principal Investigator with Dr. Beau Kilmer [RAND]

This project brings together some of the world’s experts on cannabis potency and the economics of cannabis to assess the feasibility and consequences of implementing a cannabis potency tax in California. This project will provide critical insights and analyses that are needed to inform discussions about cannabis taxes in California, including specific details about what it would take to implement such a regime in the state. We will accomplish this goal with a mixed-methods research project focused on four objectives: (1) Assess the implementation of potency-based taxes in Canada and Illinois to learn about benefits and limitations of potency taxes in these regions; (2) Systematically review research on health outcomes related to potency of products and methods to minimize risks to inform and shape the various types of potency taxes considered in Objective 3; (3) Estimate and project the effects of implementing various potency taxes in California on cannabis prices, government revenues, and illegal market activity; (4) Determine what California would need to do—and what it would cost—to implement a potency tax.

Funded by: Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (725409)

Role: Principal Investigator

Chronic pain is a significant public health burden for which there are few effective treatments lacking adverse effects that limit their long-term use. Anorexia frequently co-occurs with pain; severity of appetite impairment is positively associated with pain intensity. Cannabigerol (CBG) is a minor cannabinoid that, in laboratory animals, lacks the psychoactive side effects of THC. Preclinical studies point to CBG’s potential pain-relieving and appetite stimulating effects but these findings have yet to be translated to humans. Understanding if CBG has analgesic and appetite-stimulating properties alone or in combination with THC is fundamental to developing novel cannabinoid-based therapeutics for these indications. At a time when pharmacotherapeutic strategies to decrease reliance on opioids for pain relief are desperately needed and novel orexigenic agents are warranted, probing the analgesic and appetite stimulating effects of CBG and its potential THC-sparing effects is of significant interest. The proposed double-blind, placebo-controlled study will be the first to assess the dose-dependent analgesic, appetite-stimulating, and adverse effects of CBG alone and in combination with THC in volunteers.

Funded by: California Highway Patrol (20C066000)

Role: Principal Investigator

This study will assess the sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy of three point-of-collection oral fluid testing devices developed to detect recent cannabis use. These devices test oral fluid for delta-9-tetrahydrocananbinol (THC), the primary psychoactive component of cannabis. Performance of these devices will be determined by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) quantitative analysis of THC in oral fluid. The investigation consists of two double-blind placebo-controlled studies; the first will test the devices in response to smoked cannabis (with and without THC) and the second will test the devices in response to oral THC (or placebo) administration. Performance of the testing devices will be ascertained at several time points after drug administration through comparison of LC-MS/MS quantitative analyses; blood levels of THC and metabolites will be measured in parallel. The impact of smoked cannabis and oral THC on subjective ratings of intoxication and impairment as well as performance on neurocognitive tasks associated with impaired driving will also be ascertained.