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Is Marinol Better than Smoked Marijuana?

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Updated April 15, 2014

Question: Is Marinol Better than Smoked Marijuana?
My doctor prescribed Marinol to help with my nausea and vomiting. I'm wondering if I'd be better off just smoking some medical marijuana. Is Marinol better than smoked marijuana?
Answer: Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of studies on the comparisons and differences of Marinol and medical marijuana. Marinol is a synthetic form of Delta-9-THC, which is the chemical found in smoked marijuana that treats distressing symptoms. Because marijuana is still classified as a schedule I drug and considered illegal by the U.S. federal government, medical research remains restricted and tightly controlled.

That being said, there are pros and cons to both Marinol and marijuana when it comes to helping with nausea and vomiting.

Marinol

Pros:

  • Marinol is taken orally, thereby eliminating exposure to other chemicals found in marijuana.

  • Marinol is legal in all 50 states and stocked in pharmacies.

  • Once it reaches peak levels in the blood, Marinol stays fairly steady and lasts twice as long as marijuana.

  • Marinol is safe and approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Cons:

  • Marinol has a slow onset of action, low absorption rate, and the amount of medication absorbed varies from person to person.

  • Patients can't control the dose of medication they need to control the symptom.

  • Marinol is more expensive to produce than marijuana.

Smoked Marijuana

Pros:

  • Smoked marijuana has a rapid onset, bringing relief of symptoms quicker than Marinol.

  • Patients have better control over dosing with smoked marijuana.

  • Marijuana is easy and inexpensive to grow and distribute.

Cons:

  • Marijuana contains over 400 other chemicals and little is known about their effects when inhaled.

  • Marijuana is still considered illegal by the U.S. federal government, even though several states have passed laws for medicinal use.

  • Marijuana is not covered by insurance and can be more costly for patients than Marinol.

  • Smoked marijuana may not be appropriate for use by patients with respiratory disease, including lung cancer.

There is no consensus whether Marinol is more effective than smoked marijuana. If you're considering smoked medical marijuana, first make sure it is legal in your state. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijauna Laws (NORML) has a list of medical marijuana laws in each state as well as contact information for physicians willing to prescribe it. Always discuss this option with your regular physician and be sure he knows all of the medications you are taking, including herbs and supplements.

Sources:

Institute of Medicine Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health report "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base". Accessed from procon.org

Abrams, DI. "Cannabis in Painful HIV-Associated Sensory Neuropathy: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial" Neurology Vol. 68, Pages 515-521. Feb. 2007.

More Medical Marijuana FAQs

What are the Pros and Cons of Medical Marijuana?

What Symptoms Might Medical Marijuana Treat?

What is Marinol?

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