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Does the Marijuana Pill Work?

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director August 4, 2009

    This informative article from CBS News about the government’s claim that there is no need for medical patients to access cannabis, when there is a ‘fake’ cannabis pill on the market, features remarks from NORML advisory board member, professor and author

    Mitch Earleywine, and former deputy drug czar under Bush 1.0 Herb Kleber, which strongly underlines the differences between credible and not credible on the topic of cannabis.

    Credible:

    [One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90 minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

    “It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

    Not Credible:

    “Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”

    Dr. Kleber, who said he has prescribed Marinol to a patient and found it to be effective, points to what he characterizes as a significant advantage of the pill over traditional marijuana: “People don’t abuse it.”

    “Marijuana addiction is becoming common and as a result I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana,” he said. “Contrary to popular beliefs that there is no marijuana withdrawal, there is marijuana withdrawal. It’s very clear cut.”

    Talk about anecdotal! Dr. Kleber would have readers believe, that cannabis today, as compared to the prior 2,000 years of documented cannabis use by humans is that “Marijuana addiction is becoming common”.

    Really?

    “I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana”

    Of course you are Herb because as it has been well documented by NORML that the criminal justice system throughout most of the United States presents minor cannabis offenders with the Hobson’s Choice of either going to jail or to visit the offices of the ‘Dr. Klebers’ in America for ‘treatment’.

    Dr. Kleber well knows this, so his statement is for me the working definition of disingenuous!

    Lastly, there is nothing new about Marinol as it has been legal and available for medical patients since the mid 1980s. If the pill worked as Dr. Kleber claims, voters and legislators in the 13 states with medical cannabis laws would not have opted for a whole plant solution.

    Marinol was supposed to be the government’s great ‘silver bullet’ back in the mid 1980s to end the public debate about patients’ need for whole-smoked cannabis–an analog of one of the plant’s major ingredients isolated in pill form.

    Want to know more about ‘pot’ pills vs. the real thing? Checkout NORML’s published paper ‘Marinol vs. Natural Cannabis‘.

    Does the Pot Pill Work?
    The Government Says a Pill Called Marinol Offers the Same Benefits as
    Medical Marijuana. Is it True?

    By Brian Montopoli
    August 4, 2009

    (CBS) “Medical marijuana,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says, “already exists.”

    They don’t just mean in California. A pill known as Marinol has been legal and approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use with a prescription anywhere in America since 1985.

    It’s active ingredient? Dronabinol, better known as THC, the primary psychoactive element of the cannabis plant.

    “Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the other 400 uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens or fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana,” said Neil Hirsch, a spokesman for Marinol manufacturer Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

    But Marinol is not the same thing as traditional, smokable marijuana. It is a less complex substance lacking both some of the good components found in traditional marijuana (such as cannabidiol, which has been found to have anti-seizure effects) and the bad or not-yet-fully-understood components (among them potential carcinogens) that can also come with the drug.

    Ken Trainer, a 60-year-old Massachusetts resident who has battled Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years, said he has long been smoking marijuana to deal with the regular tremors he gets in his arms and legs.

    “If I smoke a joint, the tremors go away most times before the joint is gone,” he said. “It makes my life a little easier.” Marinol, by contrast, “didn’t really do much of anything for me,” he said.

    56-year-old Des Moines resident Jeff Elton, who was diagnosed with gastroparesis six years ago, had a similar experience when he was prescribed Marinol to deal with his chronic nausea and vomiting.

    “I felt no relief, I didn’t feel ill, I felt nothing,” he said. “It might as well be M&M’s.”

    Elton said he switched to marijuana, which he smokes through a vaporizer – a device that heats the active ingredients into a vapor instead of burning them. He said it allows him to keep down his food and regain some of the weight he lost while on Marinol.

    “[One] problem with Marinol is that it’s orally administered,” Dr. Mitch Earleywine, an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email. “Therefore, it takes longer to work than cannabis inhaled from a vaporizer. (Usually 90
    minutes at best rather than 15 seconds – a meaningful amount of time to the nauseated.)”

    “It’s harder to control dosage, too, so folks end up discombobulated or without symptom relief,” he added. “In addition, folks who are vomiting can’t hold down the pills.” Earleywine also said that a dose Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana.

    Defenders note that Marinol is not meant to be a cure-all: It has been approved specifically for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS.

    “When the whole push for the smoked product came along, it was often for those two indications,” said Dr. Herbert Kleber, a professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University and the former deputy drug czar under President George H.W. Bush. “And in general, I’ve not seen any need for the smoked form of marijuana for those two indications. Marinol had already been shown to be quite effective for those two things.”

    “Are there actions in the whole plant that you don’t get from just the Marinol? I would be surprised if there wasn’t,” he continued. “The problem is that most of the data about the potential medical actions of the smoked form are anecdotal.”

    Research into the effects of medical marijuana is ongoing: The University of California, San Diego, for example, boasts a Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research engaged in “focused controlled clinical trials on the efficacy of cannabis in patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS,
    cancer, seizures or muscle spasms associated with a chronic debilitating condition, or any other serious condition providing sufficient theoretical justification.” (The director of the UCSD program, Dr. Igor Grant, was out of the country and could not be reached for this story.)

    The Los Angeles Times, which offers a nice overview of the current research, writes that “a growing body of research supports [medical marijuana’s] medical usage, but some of it is cautionary.” Marijuana has been found to be effective in counteracting severe pain, nausea and loss of appetite, though questions remain about the drawbacks, among them possible respiratory damage and increased cancer risk.

    Dr. Kleber, who said he has prescribed Marinol to a patient and found it to be effective, points to what he characterizes as a significant advantage of the pill over traditional marijuana: “People don’t abuse it.”

    “Marijuana addiction is becoming common and as a result I’m seeing an increasing number of people who have trouble stopping marijuana,” he said. “Contrary to popular beliefs that there is no marijuana withdrawal, there is marijuana withdrawal. It’s very clear cut.”

    The calculus, then, isn’t quite as simple as the Drug Enforcement Administration suggests: Marinol and medical marijuana may share an active ingredient, but they offer somewhat different benefits and different drawbacks. Proponents of medicinal marijuana say it’s disingenuous to hold up Marinol as a direct alternative to the more traditional form of the plant.

    “I just don’t understand how they won’t let me smoke a joint, but they’re more than happy to write me out prescriptions for anything that I want,” Trainer said.

    74 Responses to “Does the Marijuana Pill Work?”

    1. The Oracle says:

      Many millions of people understand how to self-dose with smoked cannabis or vaporized cannabis. When ingested in pill form as Marinol or as cannabis in the form of brownies or space cake, it certainly does take about 90 minutes to set on, and you have to use more of it for it to be effective. For example, if one ingested the amount one normally would vaporize or smoke and waited 90 minutes, you probably wouldn’t notice anything at all. The effective ingredients are spread through the entire body and do not reach the blood stream via inhalation. How much more one needs to ingest, I’d estimate, is about 5 times as much. I have this friend, ahem, if you know what I mean, who would normally put a nice sized bud in a joint or bowl and smoke about half of it for the desired effect. This friend, ahem, who didn’t want to smoke it couldn’t afford a decent vaporizer so decided to ingest it, so this friend, ahem, experimented, and with some good Aurora Indica from Nirvana Seeds in the Netherlands simply had to swallow 4 or 5 nice sized buds to feel anything. Indeed, it took about 90 minutes for the whole body buzz to come on, and it came on strong–too strong and lasted too long. While in Amsterdam, not wanting to break any U.S. laws of course, ahem, this friend, ahem, also tried space cake, and the same thing happened. Also, this friend, ahem, finally managed to get a vaporizer, then tried vaporizing Marinol, only to be sorely disappointed. It just took too long for it to take effect when she ingested it, and it was too difficult for her to decide how much to ingest. Goldilocks had too much trouble figuring out how much was too little, how much was too much, and how much was just right.

      Also, this friend partook of the sacred herb a few times a week to relax instead of using alcohol to relax, and when got layed off partook a few times a day, not every day, but often enough during the week, for several months, then figuring it would take 30 days for the metabolytes to clear out of this friend’s system just up and stopped with no withdrawal effects whatsoever. Nothing physical, nothing psychological, although some people can associate getting buzzed with certain areas or foods or sounds or images, which in the trade they refer to as a mild psychological attachment or addiction.

      The story is true, it’s just that the name and gender of the person has been avoided and purposely kept vague because prohibitionists, law enforcement and narcs also visit this site. One of them said one time that they wanted to see the truth set you free from jail, he knew the truth about cannabis but didn’t care as he was only interested in furthering his career. And, he considered himself a good Christian, too.

      Alas, all of us in the know realize the only reason cannabis is illegal is because of the racial reasons that have been documented as to why it was made illegal in the first place, as well as the fact that big pharma can’t patent something you can grow for yourself.

      It’s all about command and control in order for the controllers and their sycophants to enrich themselves.

      The powerful never have enough power.

      The rich never have enough money.

    2. Chrokee Fred Jesus says:

      Here we go again how many timeS are we going to get off the subject. Only to be lead down another confusing issue. Is it stronger, is it addictive, does it have medical value, can it be taxed, can it be regulated more and more bull shit.

      Its all about personal freedom and our rights as Americans!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I SHOULD HAVE FREE CHOICE!! IF I BREAK NO GOOD LAWS OR BOTHER NO ONE THEN LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

      QUIT GROWING A CORPORATE SYSTEM THAT FEEDS ON OUR CHILDREN. AND COMPANIES THAT EQUATE THEIR PROFITS TO HOW MANY FREE AMERICANS IT HAS LOCKED UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      EASY AIN’T IT????????????????????????????????????????

      CFJ

    3. Chrokee Fred Jesus says:

      YEA PEOPLE LIKE CANNABIS IT WORKS FOR THEM SO LET THEM HAVE IT!!!

      THE REST IS BULL SHIT…

      I LIKE A HOT BATH. I TAKE ONE ALMOST EVER NIGHT DOES THAT MEAN I AM ADDICTED TO HOT WATER??? HOW STUPID IS THIS ARGUMENT. I ALSO LIKE TO DO A PIN JOINT WHILE TAKING A BATH. IN MY HOUSE, IN MY TUB, ON MY LAND, BUT CANNOT BECAUSE I AM TOO OLD TO BE THROWN IN JAIL FOR CANNABIS USE…

      CFJ

    4. CRASH says:

      When my mother died of cancer she had marinol it did not help cannabis did I tried the pill and I see why people would rather use cannabis.

    5. Rev. James Shaffer says:

      “I just don’t understand how they won’t let me smoke a joint, but they’re more than happy to write me out prescriptions for anything that I want,” Trainer said.

      You answered your own question. . . they won’t let you smoke a joint because their politically-connected friends in the Pharmaceuticals industry can’t patent and price-gouge if you choose Nature over Synthetics. . .
      Even if the prescription drugs kill you, they still have your money. . .

      As I understand it, the 400-odd alkaloid processes in Cannabis work together. . . Alkaloid A might reduce nausea but cause ‘loose stool.’ Alkaloid B cancels it while causing uncontrollable urination. . . Alkaloid C cancels the urination problem but makes you spew blood from every orifice. . . Alkaloid D cancels that but makes you narcoleptic, etc. . . and without the entire collection of chemicals present, none of the others work right. . .
      (not saying these are real ‘side-effects, just using them as an example of why ‘whole-plant’ Cannabis is better than the synthetic)

      I was taught (back when schools actually did that) that any unConstitutional law is automatically null and void, and that violating said laws were not only the Right but the Duty of all Americans. . .
      what happened to our courage to do so?


    6. – The problem with Marinol is that it does not contain
      ALL beneficial-compounds found in the plant,
      just ONE deemed to be “the active-ingredient”
      (To the EXCLUSION of the REST of the ACTIVE-INGREDIENTS).

      THE ORANGE-JUICE ANALOGY:

      Rebel with a cause HAS said before:
      ”You can have the orange juice…
      but…you can’t touch the orange.”

      HOWEVER…
      – Marinol® is not even the “orange-juice”,
      it’s just the “ascorbic-acid” / “synthetic vitamin C”,
      MINUS the bioflavinoids, carbohydrates, B1 and potassium…
      (Whole “orange-juice” is seen by some as the gateway to
      “mixed-drinks” and vodka-abuse / “screwdrivers”
      therefore, not allowed …
      BESIDES, orange-peels contain mold-spores…EEK!!!).

      – Sativex® is the “orange-juice-concentrate”,
      only legal in some other countries at present…
      (However, I’ve heard that taste-tests of the
      orange juice concentrate are underway here…).

      – For those of who know
      the Truth About Citrus,
      orange juice is still superior to
      isolated, synthetic, ascorbic-acid…
      as well as frozen-concentrate…

    7. Daniel says:

      It’s obvious why marinol is legal… pharmaceutical companies make money on it. Big name pharm companies aren’t making any money off of dispensaries. If there was a way to get these companies on board with the herb then it would be legal within a decade

    8. Mark, Glenolden, PA says:

      Marijuana
      Is a benign substance that when used
      Results in
      Inteligent thinking, and debate
      Not
      Obvious
      Lies, like synthetic pills.

    9. Mark, Glenolden, PA says:

      Marijuana
      Is a benign substance that when used
      Results in
      Inteligent thinking, and debate
      Not
      Obvious
      Lies, unlike synthetic pills.

      Mods, please edit previous post and use this one in its place.

    10. Terry jones says:

      I will have too say in regaurd as a bi polar patient Marinol does not work. I recently got ahold of a supply from a freinds deceased moms perscription for cancer. I have taken the recomended dose for about 2 weeks. Not a damn thing, i also have chronic back pain from warehousing, not even one bit of gleem for pain. I then started taking more than the recomended dose. still not a damn thing. If you ask me Marinol is bull- s&@!. I’ts just another way for the government to keep the dea employed. and the only way too bank off of sick dying people!

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