Is Marinol Better than Smoked Marijuana for Appetite and Nausea?

Both Marijuana and Marinol Can Help With Nausea and Appetite Suppression

Ambulatory chemotherapy
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Marinol is a synthetic form of Delta-9-THC, which is the chemical found in smoked marijuana that treats distressing symptoms related to appetite loss. It is a "schedule three" FDA-approved drug, which means it is not likely to be abused.

Marinol was initially approved to treat the symptoms of nausea and vomiting related to cancer treatment. Today, it is also prescribed to increase appetite in people with anorexia or those with AIDS-related weight loss, among other uses.

As these effects are similar to the effects of marijuana use, is Marinol better than smoked marijuana?

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of studies on the comparisons and differences of Marinol and medical marijuana. 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 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.
  • It is safe and approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Marinol is not smoked, which means it does not have the potential to cause harm to lungs, throat, or mouth.


    • 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


    • 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.


    • 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 on whether or not 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 Marijuana 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.


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