Although many people consider prescription drugs to be safe, medications still pose risks due to adverse reactions and uncomfortable side effects. HIV-positive patients in many states have the choice between Marinol and medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of HIV and AIDS.
Is one better than the other when it comes to treating patients with HIV or the complications from AIDS? Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your treatment method.
Marinol Applications and Side Effects
Marinol is a prescription medication developed by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie and available through pharmacies. The active ingredient is dronabinol, a synthetic version of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana. This ingredient works as an appetite stimulant.
The drug is typically used to treat HIV-positive patients with loss of appetite — a condition commonly in patients as HIV progresses to AIDS. Some physicians prescribe Marinol for severe nausea and vomiting when other medications prove ineffective.
Marinol is widely available with a prescription, making it accessible for many patients. It comes as a capsule in 2.5mg, 5mg and 10mg. The beginning dose is 2.5mg twice daily before lunch and supper. Doctors can adjust the dosage as needed.
As with any prescription medication, Marinol has a long list of side effects and warnings. AbbVie cautions patients taking Marinol against driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery until the medication has been properly adjusted and to never smoke marijuana while taking Marinol, as this can cause an overdose.
Side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, tingly sensations, anxiety, headaches, stomach pain, insomnia, diarrhea, weakness, fainting, rapid heartbeat, mental changes and more.
The Accessibility of Medical Marijuana
In the United States, 28 states approve of medical marijuana as a treatment for dozens of conditions and diseases. Close to one-third of HIV and AIDS patients rely on the plant to relieve some of the nausea, pain and mental and mood changes seen with the condition.
A complication of AIDS is cachexia, wasting away due to malnutrition. Medical marijuana increases the patient’s appetite while fighting other challenges from the progressive virus. For example, patients suffering from depression, anxiety, nerve pain and dementia report they see a reduction in symptoms when using marijuana.
Marijuana is available as an inhalation or as an extract, though research shows patients who smoke marijuana may experience a higher rate of opportunistic infections. Experts recommend a smokeless inhaler to ensure the chemicals in marijuana reach the patient’s bloodstream quickly. Similar to asthma inhalers, these devices deliver a specific amount of medication.
The marijuana plant consists of hundreds of active ingredients and compounds that benefit HIV patients. Marinol does not contain these compounds. Researchers are currently studying the effects of Denbinobin, an active compound in cannabis, on HIV replication. They theorize the chemical may slow the progression of the virus as it prevents the reactivation of HV-1 in specific cells.
Qualifying for Medical Marijuana Treatment
Ask your physician if you live in a state like Florida, which has legalized medical marijuana, if your condition qualifies you for medical marijuana treatment. If your state does not permit medical marijuana and you are hesitant about taking Marinol, consider writing your state legislatures and representatives and requesting legalization.