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What to Know About Dronabinol vs. Marijuana

November 6, 2019 • • GeneralMedical Marijuana
What to Know About Dronabinol vs. Marijuana

What to Know About Dronabinol vs. Marijuana

You’ve probably heard that dronabinol is similar to medical marijuana, but there are major differences between the two treatments.  Ohio residents considering whether to take medical marijuana to reduce the symptoms of 21 chronic conditions may have also heard about dronabinol, a synthetic version of the active ingredient of cannabis — delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Prescribed under the brand-name Marinol, the medication comes in the form of gelatin capsules in either 2.5 mg, 5 mg, or 10 mg dosages. Unlike medical marijuana, which is a Schedule I drug, dronabinol can be legally prescribed in all states. The Food & Drug Administration approved its use in 1985, classifying the drug as a Schedule III controlled substance with less potential for abuse or dependency than Schedule I or II medications. Although Marinol may be THC’s synthetic twin, the medication has several important differences from medical marijuana. When deciding between Marinol and medical cannabis, patients should be aware of those contrasts so they can make an informed choice.

The Pros and Cons of Marinol

The primary clinical rationale for prescribing Marinol is to offer relief from the nausea and vomiting often caused by chemotherapy treatments. It’s also used to increase appetite and reverse weight loss in AIDS patients. Marinol has also been marketed as a drug to combat chronic pain. However, results from several scientific studies are mixed on that point. A 2013 study concluded that while dronabinol and medical marijuana both reduced sensitivity to pain, dronabinol’s effect was longer lasting. However, other studies reported that Marinol was ineffective in treating chronic non-cancer pain and nerve-related pain — potentially not much better than a placebo.  Another drawback to Marinol is its high cost. Generic dronabinol costs about $250 for a bottle of 60 2.5 mg capsules, while brand-name Marinol is priced three times higher. Because it’s taken orally, the benefits of Marinol are not felt immediately. When it does make it way through the bloodstream, the overall effect is heightened because it mixes with 11-hydroxy-THC. This compound boosts the psychological side effects of the medication, potentially causing patients to feel drowsy, dizzy, confused, anxious, or depressed. Natural cannabis is unlikely to produce such strong reactions. One potential benefit of Marinol is that it can be prescribed by any doctor. But in states like Ohio where marijuana has been approved for medical use, it’s simple for patients to seek a recommendation from a qualified physician — as simple as making an appointment at Lakewood Medical Clinic. 

Why Medical Marijuana May be a Better Choice

In contrast to dronabinol, which only consists of a synthetic version of THC, medical marijuana possesses both THC and cannabinoids (CBD). These agents enable medical marijuana to treat a wider variety of ailments. For example, medical marijuana has been used to treat epiletic seizures and spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients. Further, natural cannabis contains terpenoids (oils) and flavonoids (phenols) that reduce inflammation from inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.  Since medical marijuana is either inhaled or ingested, the effect is immediate, so patients suffering from nausea and other symptoms don’t have to wait for relief. Patients also have more control over the dosage of medical marijuana compared to a pill form of dronabinol.

Let Us Help You Decide

The professional staff at Lakewood Medical Clinic understands the decision to take medical marijuana is a major life choice. Although we don’t prescribe dronabinol, we’re happy to answer your questions and discuss how medical marijuana could help address your condition. Contact us today for an appointment.