Marinol: Don’t Have #Chemo Without It

Author’s Note: I am not a doctor and nothing in this blog, or on this website, should ever be construed as “medical advice.”

Howdy Cancer Network!!

Today I want to dedicate my blog to giving some lessons learned about taking Marinol to ease the effects of chemotherapy. It’s something I’ve done for many years, and I simply would not have chemo now without it. But it’s a complicated relationship…one that requires some experience to help in planning logistics.

I offer my decade of chemo/Marinol experience in hopes that it helps others going through treatments. If you’re not taking Marinol currently, you’re suffering more than you need to. That being said, there are barriers to even getting this drug in the first place. Let’s take a closer look…

What does Marinol do? From Solvay Pharmaceutical’s website (original maker of Marinol): “A cannabinoid dose-related “high” (easy laughing, elation and heightened awareness) has been reported by patients receiving MARINOL® in both the antiemetic (24%) and the lower dose appetite stimulant clinical trials (8%). Other frequently reported adverse events in MARINOL® clinical trials included abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, euphoria, paranoid reaction, somnolence, and thinking abnormal.”

MARINOL® is contraindicated in any patient who has a history of hypersensitivity to any cannabinoid or sesame oil.

Patients should be warned not to drive, operate machinery, or engage in hazardous activity until they establish they can tolerate MARINOL® and perform such tasks safely.”

***Update: Marinol has now gone generic and it manufactured and distributed by Watson Pharmaceuticals. Their "Medical Information" number is (800) 272-5525. Generic name is DRONABINOL.***

In Plain Terms:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Marinol is synthetic THC. THC is the active compound in marijuana that get’s you high. That’s right; Marinol is pot, in a pill.

Now that we understand why Marinol works so well to reduce nausea, we need to navigate the hurdles to getting a script for it.

•Marinol is a “scheduled” drug. That means it gets you high. The DEA actually tracts how many scheduled drugs each doctor prescribes. Some doctors are uneasy having Big Brother watch over them, so they may be reluctant to write you a script for it. That’s B.S. if you ask me. The situation you’re going through is EXACTLY why that drug was invented in the first place. Get another oncologist if your current one is denying you this effective relief from chemotherapy related nausea.

•Marinol is very expensive. This means that your insurance company doesn’t want you to have it. Said differently, they don’t want to PAY for it. Ask your doctor for tips on how to maneuver within the system in order to get your insurance company to pay for it. It can be done, trust me. Also, don’t hesitate to contact Solvay Pharmaceuticals directly at 800-241-1643. I’m sure they have some tricks up their sleeves for dealing with insurance companies.

•Most pharmacies don’t stock Marinol. You’ll either have to preorder/prepay for it at your pharmacy, or call around to find one that has it stocked. I highly recommend Rite Aid, not just for Marinol, but also for every pharmacy need. I’m aware that they are always $1 or $2 more than most pharmacies, but their customer service is positively second-to-none. I absolutely love my local Rite Aid pharmacy at 11 Mile Rd. in St. Clair Shores! "Hi Jenna! Hi Barbara! You and everyone else there are doing an awesome job!!"

Okay, now that you’ve finally got your hands on your wonder drug, you need to understand it’s likely effects on you. You can’t just take this drug and then go about your life like normal. It takes some planning. Let’s start with the effects you can expect to experience…

It takes about an hour for marinol to kick in after taking it. During that first hour, you’ll be mostly unaffected. But after 60 minutes or so, you’ll start to notice the nausea giving way to the “munchies.” If you’ve never experienced the munchies because you’ve never smoked pot before, take my advice and “PUT DOWN THE SNICKERS BAR!!!”

After you’ve eaten everything in your snack cupboard, Marinol’s buzz sort of switches gears. Soon, you’ll be talking continuously, making observations out of left field and having everyone around you scratching their heads wondering, “Where the Hell did that thought come from?” It’s all good, and can be quite entertaining if you handle it correctly in advance. I give some thoughts on that below…

For the next 2 hours, you’ll bob back & forth between lucid moments of unprecedented clarity, and entertainingly unmitigated gibberish. You will have some amazing ideas during this 2-hour period; just make sure to recheck them when you’re sober to see that they still make sense. George Carlin once said: “I have a lot of great ideas. The problem is, most of them suck!” I think I know what he meant by that. ;-)

Marinol has another side effect that turns everyone into “Virgos.” While I’m not a horoscope reader, it is my understanding that Virgos have a compulsion to organize things. Everything must be in its own place. Order must be restored. Well that’s what Marinol does to me. Once I get through the “Holy crap! Am I ever stoned!” phase, I start to clean and organize our house. Be careful though, you can end up doing this for hours at a time. If you overextend yourself physically while on Marinol, you’ll be that much more drained the next day. It’s a balancing act. Have fun and live today, buy don’t overdo it and wipe yourself out for tomorrow.

So those are some examples of what to expect while on Marinol. I’m sure you’ll have some individual experiences that may differ and I’d love to hear about them! If you have one, please “leave a comment” below this blog for all of the other readers to have access to.

Why am I such a “pusher” of Marinol?

Let me paint you a picture to help you understand why. On Wednesday afternoon, 3/30/09, I had my standard dose of chemo from Dr. Jeff. Thursday morning, at 11:30a.m. I was still in bed, feeling nauseous and unable to get up. I took a Marinol at 11:35a.m. By 12:30p.m., I was in the shower and about to fix myself some lunch. By 1:30p.m., I was on a 2 1/2 mile walk to a local store, to buy Amy some flowers and hazelnuts, while dictating this blog into my iPhone!!!! Now can you understand why I think that patients who get chemo without Marinol are crazy? There is a better way than just “toughing it out.”

Now for the downsides of taking Marinol. Sorry Solvay Pharmaceuticals, my readers expect me to tell the whole truth, so help me God. For me, this list of side effects is very tolerable and I’ve managed to plan my days around them, lessening each as much as possible. I’ll list the remedy I use to avoid each…

Dull headache, all day long (I take 8-hour Tylenol and that solves the problem. Don’t take aspirin or aspirin-containing drugs; it will irritate your digestive system even more. In addition, chemo may cause a drop in your platelet count, and adding aspirin can lead to a dangerous bleeding potential.)

You may annoy other people with your behavior for the first 2 hours of each dose (I let everyone I’m around know what happens while I’m on Marinol and what they should expect. We have fun with it now. I recently was meeting up with friends and my buddy’s new girlfriend had not seen me yet on Marinol. I jokingly texted him and said, “Maybe we should give Kelly a warning about when Don brings along Mary?” He texted back saying, “Kelly said: Can’t wait to meet her!” Hahaha!

You think about 10 times more than normal while on Marinol, so when you finally come down, after the chemo effects have faded, your brain “hurts.” (Not a big deal to me, well worth the benefits of Mary)

A heightened sense of anxiety (This comes from thinking too much. You’re running through all kinds of future conversations and situations in your mind at high speed. [No pun intended.] You just need to learn how to “release” these thoughts and relax into your own mind. Takes practice, but well worth the efforts)

Marinol lasts for 5-7 hours, depending on the person that took it. You need to plan your activities around its effects. (This is no biggie, just takes some forethought.)

Dry, very red eyes (Buy some Visine, problem solved.)

“Munchies” tempt you to eat bad food (I graze on some veges and fruit before I go out into the world. That helps increase the chance that I can drive past Taco Bell without detouring through the drivethru.)

After a couple days of being on Marinol, you’re kinda “stupid” when you finally come down. This lasts for a day and its completely normal. (This doesn’t bother me since I get “chemo brain” anyway. I just laugh when I wander into the kitchen and can’t remember for the life of me why I got off of the couch to go in there in the first place!)

Well, I think that’s about it for an initial overview of Marinol, its effects and its applications. I hope this blog helped the readers that are currently going through chemotherapy. Even though my writing style is meant to be humorous in nature, I don’t want you to think that I’m downplaying the benefits of this drug. It really is helpful and I’d recommend it to almost everyone.

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think about this blog? Was it helpful? Did it make you laugh? What have been your experiences with Marinol?

4 comments

marinol

my husband has cancer and is taking chemo treatments. we live in ohio.,so marinol is not legal here. so how do we get marinol? thank you, diana coons

During Chemo

In 2001, I was diagnosed with cancer and went through 9 months of chemo. My doctors offered me marinol pills to control the vomiting; however, I decided not to take them because I figured the vomiting was good because it got the chemo out of my system. Thinking back I kinda wished I did take the pills. It probably would of helped me not feel so horrible.Anyways... I really enjoyed reading this blog post thanks for the helpful information.

Marinol

Hi, found your blog while doing a Google search on Marinol. My 72 mother-in-law came to live with us in Alaska after being diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic lung cancer. She started on a chemo course of Alimta/Carboplatin along with bisphosphonate therapy. The first course wasn't too difficult, some mild nausea, but she was able to keep eating (although a reduced amount) and drinking enough to stay hydrated. However, 4 days after her second treatment, she began to suffer intense nausea and violent vomiting that had us in the ER by evening. She couldn't keep down any kind of med, since even the smallest sip of water started the vomiting all over again. We were back in the doctor's office to follow up and our doctor suggested she try Marinol. Although initially wary because of the "marijuana" connection, she agreed. She took her first dose, and after 3 days of not being able to even manage a drink of water, she ate a grilled cheese and tomato soup, a nectarine and two glasses of water. Two hours later she had refried beans with cheese, cantaloupe and a bowl of rainbow sherbet. She was able to do some of her budget/computer work on her laptop for the first time in weeks and she said she felt more "clear headed" than she had in a month. She took her bedtime dose and went to bed--an hour later, she was back up looking "for more of them beans"!! We are thrilled, as the doctor said her blood work was staring to show nutritional deficiencies and that we really needed to find a way to get her to eat. We are only on day three, and we notice that she wakes up feeling really nauseous (vomiting after the first day of Marinol) and we are wondering if that is because of the 8-9 hour gap since her last dose? She definitely has the headache that you described, even on very strong narcotic pain meds because of bone metastasis. The doctor's office tells us that the level should build up in her system after 3-5 days and level out more in the mornings. Since her nausea lasted for the entire three weeks after her last treatment, we are thinking that she will need to continue on Marinol on a regular basis. Not sure though, and what I have read seems to indicate it is typically a short term med. We will wait and see how this goes, but for now, count us among the believers in Marinol.

Thanks!

Hey...I gave this information to Sheri who has the blog trustmeitsnothing.blogspot.com..it might help her! Thanks! Stacy

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