Patients who take FDA-approved drugs that mimic marijuana may end up experiencing the same high, according to new research.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted a study comparing the psychoactive effects of Marinol (scientific name: dronabinol) – a THC pill used to treat nausea and weight loss in AIDS and cancer – with smoked marijuana.
Published last week in The Clinical Journal Of Pain, the team concluded that both forms of cannabis treatment have similar psychoactive effects.
“These findings imply that in our laboratory environment, dronabinol caused a ‘high’ similar to smoking marijuana when used for pain management.”
Marinol was given to a group of 30 chronic pain patients who were also on opioid therapy. Their measurements were compared with 20 healthy subjects who received marijuana in joint form.
The study involved three separate laboratory visits, where participants were given the drugs and asked to complete a self-rated assessment commonly used to measure psychoactivity.
Although psychoactivity scores came back the same, the researchers did notice a difference in the time it took for effects to peak. The effects of marijuana peaked after 30 minutes, while Marinol’s peak happened at around 2 hours.
The researchers suggest that a delayed peak may make Marinol less abuse-prone than smoked marijuana.
On the other hand, medical marijuana can be administered in edible form, which many say offers a similar delay. A recent study also suggests that patients who’ve tried different forms of marijuana prefer the whole plant over pharmaceutical preparations.
Nevertheless, the authors believe that increasing interest in cannabis-based medicine warrants further research on its abuse potential.
The study received funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.