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What Is Marinol?

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Updated April 30, 2009

Question: What Is Marinol?
My doctor prescribed Marinol to help increase my appetite. I’ve heard it’s the same as marijuana. What’s the deal?
Answer: Marinol (dronabinol) is a synthetic, or man made, version of a naturally occurring compound known as delta-9-THC. Delta-9-THC is the same substance in marijuana that produces a high effect and relief of distressing symptoms, such as anorexia, nausea and vomiting, and some types of pain. It was approved by the FDA in 1985 for the treatment of nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy. In 1992, the FDA approved marketing of Marinol for the treatment of anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS. Marinol may also be used off-label for other symptoms.

Marinol has been proven safe and is pretty well tolerated by most patients. Side effects may mimic inhaled marijuana and might include a “high” feeling, anxiety or nervousness, mood changes, easy laughter, or other changes in behavior. It may also cause drowsiness or dizziness. For these reasons, it’s best if you have someone with you the first time you try the medication and avoid driving.

Because Marinol contains the same compound found in marijuana, it’s important not to smoke marijuana while taking it. Also avoid alcohol and other medications that cause drowsiness, such as barbiturates and muscle relaxants. Because Marinol can cause increased heart rate and anxiety, it’s also best to avoid taking other stimulants such as amphetamines, cocaine and caffeine.

Always talk with your doctor about any concerns you have and be sure she has a list of ALL the medications your taking, including any illicit substances.

For more information:

Where Did Your Appetite Go?

7 Ways to Whet an Appetite

Treating Nausea and Vomiting

Pain Management in Palliative Care

Sources:

Unimed Pharmaceuticals
Drugs A-Z

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