Medical Marijuana and Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder attributed to sociocultural issues such as society’s attitudes towards weight and beauty and is defined by the National Eating Disorder Association as ‘a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.’ Symptoms and behaviors associated with the disease can include extremely low body weight, body dysmorphia, obsession with the self, and calorie counting. 

The concept that marijuana could benefit anorexia sufferers actually makes a lot of sense, being that cannabis is infamous for inducing the ‘munchies’, causing users to get incredibly hungry for all things edible and in their vicinity. Cannabis then is an appetite stimulant and it seems that anorexia sufferers could indeed make good use of the plant during recovery. But is there any scientific evidence to support this? Actually, yes. 

A number of studies have taken place to try and find out why and how cannabis usage increases appetite

A number of studies have taken place to try and find out why and how cannabis usage increases appetite. A study took place (Gomez at al., 2014) on animals in Europe which offered an explanation for why marijuana may be useful for helping treat eating disorders. People who suffer from Anorexia commonly stop finding eating pleasurable, meaning that they cease to enjoy food in most capacities. The researchers of this study actually found that the way THC activates the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptor elevates pleasure in eating because it increases the bodies sensitivity to taste and scent. 

There is still an awful lot of research to be done on using cannabis to treat anorexia, and the mainstream medical community is still to be convinced

There is still an awful lot of research to be done on using cannabis to treat anorexia, and the mainstream medical community is still to be convinced. Tamara Pryor, a director of clinical research at the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, says that ‘marijuana may be a helpful tool for some people – in conjunction with therapy.’ She also states that anorexia patients are empowered by not giving in to the temptation of eating, and so appetite stimulation won’t necessarily help at all. Also, it is true to say that anorexia is usually one of multiple mental disorders affecting an individual, in that anorexia sufferers usually have other disorders which accompany their eating disorder such as depression or anxiety related conditions. In turn, cannabis use may hinder a person getting better and may actually contribute to more problems and dependency. On the other hand, strains high in CBD have no habit-forming properties, so perhaps these are the strains scientists should be looking at to provide relief. 

Cannabis use for the treatment of eating disorders could very well be the way forward, but with the disease being so serious and having such a high mortality rate, it is clear that plenty more research should be done in the area. It’s important to remember that there are lots of different strains and intake methods, as well as many other factors that can all influence outcomes and so it will definitely take lots of trial and error to find out what works best for those with anorexia, as well as other health conditions.

Marijuana and anorexia: What is their relationship and its viability as a treatment option?

In several countries, cannabis has been legalized to treat various disorders, and dronabinol, a synthetic form of THC, gained FDA approval in the early 1990s as a medication for patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome-related anorexia ( AIDS). The challenge is that people who suffer from anorexia often experience feelings of hunger, but due to the psychological complexities of the disorder, they may ignore this urge. Below, we’ll examine some studies that could shed light on the connection between anorexia and marijuana. But first, it is important to understand the possible link between the endocannabinoid system and anorexia, since it is the reason for scientific interest in cannabis.

What do we know about cannabidiol (CBD) and anorexia?

CBD, the second most prevalent cannabinoid in many modern marijuana strains, has come to the fore in recent years due to its lack of psychoactive effects, unlike THC, as it does not bind directly to CB1 receptors. Despite the lack of studies on the effects of CBD on eating disorders, there are ongoing trials administering this cannabinoid to patients with cancer-associated anorexia-cachexia syndrome, a debilitating condition that leads to weight loss and muscle atrophy due to malignant tumors. Although there is not enough data yet, both THC and dronabinol have been approved for certain patients with anorexia. It is likely that more studies will be conducted on CBD in this context. For example, the effect of CBD on anxiety related to food intake in people with anorexia is currently being investigated. 

How is marijuana and CBD consumed?

Marijuana consumers have various options for consuming products with CBD and THC. Some prefer to smoke, while others opt for cannabis edibles. The most popular administration methods include:

  1. Smoking: Many consumers prefer to smoke joints, joints, pipes or bongs. This method provides a quick onset of effects, but carries health risks.
  2.  Vaping: This technique uses lower temperatures to vaporize the cannabinoids and terpenes without burning the plant material. It produces fewer toxic byproducts, but still poses some health risks.
  3. Oral route: when marijuana products are ingested, the cannabinoids pass through the digestive system, which delays their effect. In the case of THC, the liver converts it into a more potent form, which can cause an intense psychoactive effect.
  4. Sublingual route: Administering oils and extracts under the tongue allows cannabinoids to enter directly into the bloodstream through fine tissue, resulting in a rapid onset of effects without the need to inhale. 

Marijuana and anorexia: the lack of data

A mystery still remains regarding the relationship between cannabis and anorexia. Reliable evidence demonstrating the herb’s influence on appetite, desire to eat, and the underlying psychological causes of this eating disorder is scarce. However, the relevance of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the regulation of appetite and eating behaviors makes it an extremely promising therapeutic target, and cannabinoids are positioned as one of the most powerful ways to influence this system. Although science has successfully analyzed orally consumed, vaporized, and smoked marijuana in human trials, studies with larger samples are still required to elucidate the true relationship between weed and eating disorders.



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