What are the different types of synthetic cannabis?

Cannabis pills
Cannabis pills

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice.

There are an infinite number of cannabis strains on the market – all with varying levels of potency. When dealing with a living organism, it can be virtually impossible to ensure that each plant has the same strength as the next. Because of the lack of control and regulation, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved traditional cannabis for medical purposes.


However, there still remains great interest in the therapeutic properties of cannabis for certain debilitating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Crohn’s disease. While studies are still being done to test the effectiveness and safety of traditional medicinal cannabis, the FDA has made efforts to harness the power of the substance in safer, synthetic substances. Currently, the two FDA-approved forms of synthetic cannabis are Marinol (Dronabinol) and Cesamet (Nabilone) [source: FDA].


Marinol (Dronabinol) comes in gelatin capsule form and is taken orally. The active ingredient in Marinol is Dronabinol, a synthetic form of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or delta-9-THC. In addition to Dronabinol, Marinol capsules also contain the following inactive ingredients: FD&C Blue No. 1 (5 mg), FD&C Red No. 40 (5 mg), FD&C Yellow No. 6 (5 mg and 10 mg), gelatin, glycerin, methylparaben, propylparaben, sesame oil, and titanium dioxide [source: FDA].

Marinol is primarily used to treat nausea and vomiting and stimulate appetite in AIDS/HIV and cancer patients. Other effects include elevated mood, easy laughing and a heightened awareness [source: FDA].


Cesamet (Nabilone) is also a capsule medication taken orally. It used to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer patients who are experiencing side effects from chemotherapy. It is usually taken with or without food two to three times a day during a cycle of chemotherapy.

Both substances can have adverse side effects including: headache, dizziness, fatigue, drowsiness, dry mouth, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and confusion. More severe effects include hallucinations and irregular heartbeat [source: U.S. National Library of Medicine].


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“Potential Merits of Cannabinoids for Medical Uses.” Federal Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm114741.htm

“Nabilone.” PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0000398/

“Marinol.” Federal Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/dockets/05n0479/05N-0479-emc0004-04.pdf