Sorry to get heavy-hearted on you, but we must talk about this relatively common condition that affects approximately 200,000 Americans every year. It’s called anorexia—an eating disorder that causes people to obsess over their weight and what they eat. Anorexia can lead to extreme weight loss to the point of hospitalization or even death.
While experts say this condition can never completely go away, research suggests that cannabis may be able to help certain symptoms associated with the disease. Be advised that cannabis cannot “treat” or “cure” anorexia as the effects are temporary. We have to be careful when talking about cannabis as a “remedy” for any condition. Alright, with that being said, let’s see if cannabis can help patients who suffer from anorexia (or have in the past, or know someone who does).
Cannabis And The Munchies
If you’re a regular smoker, you’ve likely experienced ‘the munchies’ before. ‘The Munchies’ is a very real side effect of cannabis that increases appetite. This is what initially started the conversation between cannabis and anorexia. People thought, “Well, if cannabis can awaken someone’s appetite and help them eat more, can it be used to alleviate anorexia?” In theory, yes, cannabis can make patients with anorexia reach for a bag of chips or cookies—but will they keep it down? Will they regret that meal and ruminate over it at all hours of the night?
While the impact of anorexia is physical (extreme weight loss), the condition itself stems from the brain. The brain creates an unhealthy perspective on food, diet, and physical appearance. A person with anorexia may eat more at that moment thanks to cannabis but they might punish themselves later on for giving in to their cravings. Likewise, patients with bulimia may vomit immediately after that meal.
Anorexia Vs. Bulimia
Both eating disorders, anorexia, and bulimia result in different behaviors. Someone with anorexia limits how much they eat while someone with bulimia eats an excessive amount in a short period of time and then vomits. The goal in both conditions is to prevent weight gain and maintain a certain body image. Mind you, this image is often skewed and not in-line with what’s considered “healthy.” A healthy weight depends on age, height, personal lifestyle, and so on—not just how you feel when you look in the mirror.
Where Does Anorexia Come From?
How does one develop anorexia? Are certain people born with it or is it something related to society? Nature versus nurture? According to Healthline, anorexia can be based on genetics, which is something no amount of cannabis can change. A 2011 study suggests that you are more likely to develop an eating disorder if someone in your family as one. “This may be because of a genetic predisposition to traits associated with eating disorders, such as perfectionism.”
Secondly, anorexia may be linked to a person’s emotional well-being. People who have experienced trauma in their lives may be more likely to develop an eating disorder. This also relates to personal confidence, self-esteem, and how people manage stress. Some of us bite our nails during stress, others pull their hair out (a behavioral condition called trichotillomania), others take the stress out of their eating habits.
“But can’t cannabis make you happier and feel good?” Yes, cannabis can temporarily elevate a person’s mood. Certain strains have incredible euphoric properties that promote positive thinking and distract users from negative ideas. But again, once the effects of cannabis are gone, a person will go back to their routine way of thinking and the process starts from square one.
Research Between Cannabis And Anorexia
It remains a gray area, but research suggests that cannabis is more helpful when anorexia is a side effect of a different condition, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer. When anorexia nervosa is the primary condition, research on the topic is, unfortunately, limited. What’s even more concerning is the fact that only a handful of states consider anorexia a qualifying condition for medical cannabis. Qualifying conditions vary widely between states, but you may see symptoms such as
- Weight Loss
Nevertheless, we have science and biology to thank for cannabis’ relation to anorexia. It’s been widely studied in the medical field that the endocannabinoid system has a high impact on appetite. Dare we say that it’s a fact at this point? And such, cannabis binds with these endocannabinoids to increase appetite and promote eating. This is what researchers believe can help patients with anorexia and other eating disorders. While we can’t state that it’s 100% proven, it certainly never hurts to try cannabis out for yourself and see how you feel.
One Final Note
We have a feeling that we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cannabis and anorexia. Currently, research is rather limited—but we do know that the endocannabinoid system plays a massive role in appetite. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on future studies as they come out and keep you updated on the medical benefits of cannabis.