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.