Cannabis and Mandrax abuse is unique to South Africa; and most research has focused on the socio-economic impact rather than the adverse effects on the developing brain. Therefore, the aim of this study is to determine the effects of Mandrax and Cannabis alone and in combination on the developing brain by using primary and suspension cultures of the chick embryo brain.
Exposure of primary chick embryo neuronal (CEN) cultures to the carrier ethanol, Mandrax and Cannabis, for 24 h resulted in a significant dose dependent decrease in cell number for Mandrax alone. Increasing concentrations of Cannabis in combination with Mandrax inhibited the toxic effect of Mandrax. In CEN suspensions, Mandrax alone induced a significant time–concentration dependent decrease in esterase activity following 1 and 4 h exposure. In combination with Cannabis, a significant increase in esterase activity was observed after 4 h exposure. In conclusion Mandrax is toxic to CEN cells in vitro while Cannabis seemed to have a protective effect; however, this study does not investigate the abuse of these drugs in the form commonly abused, namely inhaled smoke.