The generic version of the brand name drug Marinol, dronabinol is a man-made form of cannabis. Dronabinol is used to treat loss of appetite in people with AIDS. It is also prescribed for those who experience severe nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.
A light yellow, resinous oil that is sticky at room temperature and hardens when refrigerated, Dronabinol is insoluable in water and formulated in sesame oil. As an orally active cannabinoid, dronabinol – like other cannabinoids – has complex effects on the central nervous system, including sympathomimetic activity (it produces physiological effects resembling those caused by the activity or stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system). Cannabinoid receptors have been discovered in neural tissues and these receptors could play a role in mediating the effects of dronabinol and other cannabinoids.
Dronabinol is a controlled substance (Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act) and individuals receiving the drug for treatment have reported both psychological and physiological dependence. However, addiction is still considered to be uncommon and found only amid prolonged high-dose administration.
Abstinence syndrome has been reported with the abrupt discontinuation of dronabinol. Withdrawal symptoms including irritability, insomnia, restlessness, sweating and loose stools can occur within 12 hours of discontinuation of the drug and tend to dissipate within 48 hours of appearing.
Signs of an allergic reaction to dronabinol can include hives, breathing difficulty and swelling of face, lips, tongue or throat. More serious side effects can include seizure (convulsions), paranoia, extreme fear, fainting and a fast heart rate.