Dronabinol, Marinol, or Medical Marijuana:
Same Drug, Delighful Results



Medical marijuana really exists. And it’s legal! It goes by the brand name Marinol. But the fancy generic name is Dronabinol.

Marinol, or dronabinol, is the pharmaceutical version of marijuana. The main ingredient is synthetic THC, which is the primary active ingredient of marijuana. The beauty of Marinol is its ability to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and to stimulate the appetite and reverse the weight loss that afflicts so many pancreatic cancer patients.

Originally, Marinol was introduced to help AIDS patients combat their chronic weight loss (cachexia) or wasting syndrome. It has since been found to be a versatile appetite stimulant as well as an effective antiemetic (nausea/vomiting preventative). Marinol is usually given to patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional anti-nausea treatments.

Medical marijuana is widely available through prescription. It comes in the form of a pill and is currently available in 2.5mg, 5mg and/or 10mg dosages. Researchers are working on an inhaler or patch as an alternate means of delivering the medication. It is not to be smoked…

As excited as we are about this appetite stimulant for mom, we must mention that it is not a super drug, although it is definitely marvelous when it works. Studies have shown that it typically provides only limited relief to select patients, particularly when compared to the use of natural cannabis or marijuana. Because Marinol is a synthetic drug it lacks several of the therapeutic compounds found in natural cannabis. Even though no synthetic is 100%, Dronabinol comes close enough for us.

And we’ll take what we can get, legally! So far, it has been a life-saver, literally, for mom. It was the doctor’s last resort. Mom’s weight had dropped more than 35 lbs and the day he prescribed it for her she weighed in at 94 lbs. She was in what he called negative catabolism. That means her body had used up all her fat stores and was now in the process of breaking down her muscles for energy. The chemo and cancer had sapped her appetite, the nausea making it almost impossible to eat enough to keep her metabolism stable.

The Marinol began working almost immediately. Of course, the first few days she did experience that rather unique “high” that many patients have noted. But that has since subsided. Her only complaint now is that she thinks the Marinol is interfering with her sleep, as she wakes up most mornings between 3 and 5 am, getting only 5-6 hours of sleep a night. But she is eating, and eating well. After 6 weeks on the Marinol, her weight was back up to 109. And the nausea has all but disappeared. She said that less sleep is a small, small price to pay for the added benefit of enjoying food again!

There are several side effects to Marinol, among them are dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, unsteadiness, feeling "high", an exaggerated sense of well-being, lightheadedness, headache, red eyes, and dry mouth. Ironically nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain can also occur, especially during the first few days of using the medication, as your body adjusts to it.

Because of the nature of these side effects and the possibility of mood and behavior changes, it is very important that you take this medication under the supervision of a responsible adult. Dad said he would be the “designated” responsible adult. We all laughed at the irony, as Mom has always been the one with the level head!

There are several other Warnings to take note of as well:

1. Do not drive a car, operate machinery or do any other activity that requires mental alertness until you know how this medication affects you.
2. Do not drink alcoholic beverages while you are taking dronabinol. Alcohol can make the side effects from dronabinol worse.
3. Do not stop taking marinol without your doctors knowledge, as some patients have experienced serious withdrawal symptoms.

Medical marijuana. After years of preaching to all us kids about the ills of recreational drugs, my 70 year mother is now “high” on it everyday! Who would ever have guessed?!

I think this may be one instance where doing drugs is good!

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