I live in Alabama, where medicinal marijuana is not [yet] legal to smoke. The active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although it is not legal to smoke the natural plant form of this substance in many states, there is a synthetic form available in pill form called Marinol (Dronabinol) that is legal in every state by prescription only.

Commonly referred to as the ‘marijuana pill’ or ‘weed pill,’ Marinol is a legal option for cancer and AIDS patients in states that have not legalized traditional medical marijuana. It is also an option for those who do not wish to smoke the drug but still need the benefits. Typically prescribed to alleviate the vomiting and nausea that come with many chemotherapy treatments, it is also an appetite stimulant.  For AIDS patients, it is commonly used to prevent AIDS wasting.

Many people wonder if you will get “high” from taking Marinol, and the answer varies from patient to patient. The answer depends on the patient’s biochemistry, dosage, frequency of administration and duration of treatment. Many who have used marijuana and Marinol and have experienced a “high” on both, report that Marinol is nowhere near as intense as smoking marijuana itself. If you are taking Marinol, it is essential that you do not exceed your recommended dosage or take it in a manner different than that prescribed by your doctor in an effort to get "high."

Marinol is typically given in a 2.5 mg dosage 1-4 times per day, not to exceed 10 mg per day. Marinol capsules should always be swallowed whole and never bitten, chewed, melted, or crushed. As with any medication, Marinol has side effects. The most common side effects are: feeling “high,” change in mental status, confusion, headache, memory loss, anxiety, weakness, sudden warm feeling, 'tingly' feeling, hallucinations, strange or unusual thoughts, drowsiness, dry mouth and an exaggerated sense of well-being. Keep in mind, also, that it usually takes about an hour for Marinol to take effect.

If you are prescribed Marinol, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when taking it. First, notify your physician immediately if you are allergic to marijuana, Marinol, Dronabinol or sesame oil. Also, advise your physician if you have a history of substance or alcohol abuse. Be sure your physician is aware of your complete medical history, including all physical and emotional conditions. Some conditions may require additional monitoring. Finally, don’t make any important decisions or operate heavy machinery, a motor vehicle or power tools when under the influence of Marinol. If you drive a vehicle while under the influence of Marinol, you can be ticketed and arrested for D.U.I. Be safe, don’t do it! If you know you need to drive somewhere, delay your dose until you are back home.

If you’re a cancer patient, and you’re suffering from nausea and vomiting from your chemotherapy treatments, Marinol is a good route to go if your oncologist will prescribe it for you, and most will. It has been proven safe and effective in countless studies and clinical trials. Pharmacies across the country are able to get the drug, although many do not carry it in stock and may have to order it, which means it may be a day or two before you can get your prescription filled. Once your pharmacy knows you have the prescription, however, they will typically try to keep it on hand for the duration of your treatment. Just in case, call in your refill a few days before you actually need it.

Because Marinol is taken by mouth, you aren’t exposed to the smell of chemicals in the smoke involved with traditional marijuana. As an additional bonus, most insurance policies will cover the drug, and it is available in generic form.

Taking Marinol for a legitimate health condition like cancer or AIDS does not make you a drug addict. If you take the medicine according to your doctor’s orders, there is little chance of addiction.