A cannabinoid-based oral medication approved by the FDA in 1985 that contains dronabinol, a synthetic type of THC, the intoxicating ingredient in cannabis. Marinol has FDA approval specifically to treat anorexia associated with weight loss in HIV/AIDS patients, as well as nausea and vomiting that many cancer patients experience while undergoing chemotherapy.

More about marinol

Marinol is an oral capsule containing synthetic THC in sesame oil. THC simultaneously stimulates appetite and decreases nausea as it binds to certain receptors in the nervous system.

The body's absorption of Marinol is slower than that of inhaled cannabis, which by comparison is rapid. Once absorbed, Marinol can cause an altered state of mind, with some individuals experiencing more of a high or euphoric effect and others becoming depressive. In either case, driving is not recommended when taking this medication, and breastfeeding mothers should not take the drug at all.

A prescription is required for Marinol and the medication is intended for use by patients 18 and older. Sleeping pills, anxiety medications, and antidepressants are among the drugs that should not be taken with Marinol.

Therapeutic properties of marinol

At present, Marinol has U.S. approval to treat two conditions only: AIDS-related anorexia and severe nausea resulting from chemotherapy. Studies on Marinol as a treatment for sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis (MS), and depression are in progress.

Marinol and sleep apnea

Dronabinol was found to reduce sleepiness and improve symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea in a 2018 randomized trial of 73 adults. Published in the journal Sleep, the results of this trial indicated that participants taking the higher dosage of dronabinol (10 milligrams vs. 2.5 milligrams) experienced the best outcomes.

Marinol and multiple sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis News Today reported in 2017 that dronabinol could be a safe long-term treatment option for MS patients suffering from neuropathic pain. Originally published in the journal European Neurology, the study involved 240 patients who received either dronabinol or a placebo for 16 weeks. While the potential pain-relieving effect of dronabinol was unclear, researchers were pleased with how well-tolerated the drug was as they wrote: “Overall, this trial demonstrated the long-lasting therapeutic potential, the good tolerability and favorable safety profile of dronabinol — especially in terms of drug abuse and dependency.”

Marinol and back pain

Some lower back pain can also be classified as neuropathic and researchers are investigating whether Marinol could play a role in treating it. The University of California, San Diego is in the recruitment stage of a clinical trial that will test the potential efficacy of dronabinol and vaporized cannabis in reducing neuropathic lower back pain. The goals of the trial are comprehensive and aim to clarify how a combination of whole plant vaporized cannabis and dronabinol influence mood and other psychological factors.

Marinol and depression

As there are conflicting reports of the mood effects of Marinol and dronabinol, some researchers have been probing whether the drug could ease depression. A 2017 clinical trial sponsored by McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, attempted to understand how dronabinol affects older patients with depression and anxiety. However, the clinical trial was withdrawn in 2018 due to excessively high drug prices, a common issue that proponents of medical marijuana encounter.

Marinol and Alzheimer's disease

Another clinical trial, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in collaboration with McLean Hospital, is testing how dronabinol could treat symptoms of agitation in Alzheimer's patients. This clinical trial is in the recruitment stage and results could elucidate how Marinol might be prescribed for another purpose in the future.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on February 1, 2021.