What is Marinol and How is It Used?

Have you heard of Marinol? While the fight for legalizing medical cannabis rages on in America, Marinol has remained in the background as a viable medical treatment for patients with a range of illnesses.

However, ‘viable’ is certainly a debatable term for a variety of reasons. Marinol has been known to provide relief – but at what cost? 

Despite its presence in the legal medical field for decades, some remain in the dark about the specifics behind Marinol. As state-based cannabis treatment programs develop, it is best that we understand the alternative options doctors can prescribe to patients beyond natural cannabis. We’ll explore below why Marinol may be the best long-term stop-gap solution patients have access to. 

What is Marinol?

Marinol (generic name dronabinol) is the synthetic version of THC dissolved in sesame oil. Each Marinol pill contains no natural plant-based THC and is instead produced through a drug manufacturing process. While similar in genetic structure to THC, Marinol is its own cannabinoid

Since 1986, dronabinol has been approved to treat two specific medical conditions in the United States. The drug may provide relief from vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy as well as appetite loss associated with AIDS and HIV. Additionally, studies have been conducted to understand Marinol’s effectiveness in treating conditions including:

  • Chronic pain 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) 
  • ALS 
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Dementia  

Over the years, dronabinol was rescheduled from Schedule I to II and eventually Schedule III in 1999. The rescheduling of dronabinol is often cited as a reason for rescheduling traditional cannabis. However, as we all know, politics have held cannabis back from following suit. So, for now, Marinol remains an option for patients in states without medical cannabis programs who cannot find relief from other standard treatments. 

Until recently, Marinol, Syndros and Cesamet were the only approved synthetic cannabis-based treatment methods. That all changed in June 2018 with the approval of the first drug derived from natural cannabis, Epidolex, more commonly known to cannabis users as CBD. Not only is Epidolex the first FDA-approved cannabis-derived drug, but it is also the first drug approved for treating patients with Dravet syndrome

Side Effects of Marinol

Like most medications, Marinol comes with side effects. One of the more critical points patients need to understand is that marinol is more psychoactive than naturally produced THC. Patients are advised to monitor their high as they can hallucinate or become paranoid. Additionally, some dizziness or lightheadedness may arise. As such, it is often suggested that patients not engage in driving or the use of heavy machinery until their body reacts to Marinol without any of the mentioned adverse effects. 

One of the more frustrating points is that Marinol can actually cause additional stomach issues for patients. Pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are all potential side effects, as is insomnia and mood changes. Patients are also cautioned that Marinol can become addictive. Those with substance abuse histories face a higher risk and should always consult with their physician to evaluate treatment.

Comparing Marinol and THC

To understand what Marinol is, it is best to separate it from THC. While the two are structurally similar in many ways, it is important to remember that one is natural and the other is not. 

With Marinol, it is always clear that you are using medicine. While some may overlook that fact when consuming medical cannabis, it cannot be lost on Marinol patients. Unlike cannabis where you can buy everything from pills to edibles to flower, Marinol has been strictly available in pill form until the approval of Syndros as its liquid form. While Marinol may look more like a common medical treatment, natural cannabis contains more medicine thanks to CBD, terpenes and other key compounds found in the flower. The lack of medicine in Marinol may explain why patients report feeling limited relief.

Marinol and cannabis differ when it comes to dosing and effects as well. With most cannabis products, except for edibles and a few others, consumers typically feel the effects within 15 to 30 minutes. With Marinol, effects may not reach their peak for roughly 90 minutes. Another limitation is the noted shortcomings associated with pills. Unlike other methods where a patient can titrate dosing, marinol capsules provide one set amount the user cannot alter or adjust before ingesting.

In Conclusion

So, what is Marinol? Primarily, it is a worthy stop-gap to a more natural solution the government continues to block. While Marinol is capable of providing relief to patients in need, most signs point to cannabis being able to effectively address the same concerns with potentially more potent treatments. 

This is not to discredit Marinol, however. It should be noted and appreciated that Marinol has provided treatment for numerous individuals in need throughout the years. That said, studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that natural cannabis is the more effective solution for most patients in need of treatment. 

Hopefully legislation surrounding hemp and cannabis will continue to progress. If this occurs, options will expand for patients, allowing them to discover Marinol, medical cannabis or whichever medicine adequately addresses their symptoms. In the end, it’s all about the well being of the patients.