Marijuana versus Ondansetron for Nausea Relief
by Loren Davenport

Until a few years ago there were very few good treatments for nausea. The best was prochlorperazine (Compazine), which was also used as an antipsychotic drug. In the last few years, new antinauseants and antiemetics have been introduced—ondansetron (Zofran), granisetron (Kytril), and others. These drugs are much more effective than prochlorperazine, and many people find them as useful as whole smoked cannabis. However, they have side effects that may include diarrhea, fever, headache, and, less commonly, dizziness, light-headedness, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, and respiratory difficulties. Patients often prefer cannabis either because it lacks these side effects or simply because it works better for them. The following account is by a man who has been in a position to make the comparison.

I was hospitalized for an esophageal blockage, and the diagnosis required an X-ray motion picture of the throat in action. To make the esophagus stand out, the patient must swallow an iodide compound that fluoresces under the X-ray. The problem is that this iodide dye, like chemotherapy, causes extreme nausea. Therefore they administer ondansetron (aka Zofran), which is considered the best legal antinausea agent. It is taken intravenously and the effects last three or four hours. Each dose costs $400.00.

The ondansetron infusion started about 45 minutes before the procedure and continued for about an hour. The first few sips of the dye weren’t too bad, just really foul tasting. You think, "I can just chug this down, no problem. It’s just some bad tasting medicine." So you suck on the straw and the technicians do the first scan. "Not too bad", you say. Then the technician spins you 90 degrees and pushes the straw into your mouth again.

The second gulp doesn’t go down so easy. You get a distinct nauseating sensation that combines with the foul taste and intensifies it. With some struggle the second swallow goes down and another scan is done. By this time the thought of ingesting any more of the dye is nauseating in itself. Even though you feel sick as hell, the ondansetron does suppress the vomiting reflex. Otherwise there would have been a hell of a mess on their fancy MRI machine. So the tech spins you around 180 degrees for a back view, and thrusts the iodide brew in your face, bidding you drink again! It’s nearly impossible to get the third swallow down. When they suggest a few extra scans, you say ENOUGH and prepare to flee in your hospital gown. The testing ends for the day.

The nausea lasted several hours after the filming despite the ondansetron. Deep nausea from far down in the lower intestine began about an hour after the examination ended. Then came deep vomiting of a brownish-yellow-red fluid that somewhat resembled my idea of what partially digested iodine antiseptic medicine might look like. The pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and a general discomfort lasted several hours. I would rate ondansetron as a poor nausea suppressant, and I will never allow it to be used on me again.

I would have insisted on using cannabis to begin with, but I was not adequately warned. "Not too bad", they said. "Nothing to worry about", they assured me, as though the dye was something like milk of magnesia. It might not go down like a milkshake, but it was no big deal. It was a big deal, and the ondansetron didn’t help much.

The next day more scans were scheduled with more fluorescing dye, but this time I had my trusty cannabis sativa and pipe in hand. I informed my doctor that there would be NO PROCEDURE unless I was allowed to smoke some marijuana 15 minutes beforehand. "No problem", said the doctor.

The next day’s procedure was almost identical, but the nauseating dye went down like a chocolate milk shake this time. It still tasted pretty awful, but the pot stopped the nauseating effect dead in its tracks. Once I got the dye down, there wasn’t any problem with the aftertaste either In fact, I drank a pint of the witch’s brew without a flinch.

I felt good during and after the procedure. I was quite frankly high, and it was a 1000% better than the ondansetron. I was able to engage in friendly conversation with the techs as adjustments were made between filming and swallows. In fact, I was able to eat a meal a couple of hours after the second MRI scan. The day before, using ondansetron, I could only sip clear juice after hours of intermittent vomiting.

I told every one of the nurses, technicians, and doctors involved that marijuana was a wonder drug and gave them a firsthand comparison rating for ondansetron and cannabis sativa. On a scale of 1 to 10, ondansetron gets a -1 and cannabis sativa gets a solid +15!

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