Cannabis and Anorexia: A New Approach to Treating Eating Disorders.

Cosmopolitan magazine included a lengthy article on the use of medical marijuana for those who struggle with anorexia. By and large, the article was positive regarding such usage and it provided several salient and supportive facts. These included such statistics as; medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states as well as the District of Columbia and a record 53 percent of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.

Through case examples, the article revealed that cannabis helped reduce anxiety and irrational thinking while facilitating food acceptance and consumption in those who used the drug. In other words, it helped women eat.

For the most part, people believe the causes of anorexia are childhood trauma and family members’/society’s desire to maintain a slim physique. However, evidence came about recently, that genetics and neurobiological factors are also responsible.

According to a 2011 Belgian study, it suggests, that because dysfunctional regulation and underlying imbalances within the endocannabinoid system are essential to eating disorders, developing cannabinoid-derived treatments could prove to be therapeutically valuable. Furthermore, the study points out that cannabinoids could potentially help correct endocannabinoid deficiencies, while assisting the individual in returning to a healthy state. However, this study, in particular, is a small one and more research is required.

During 2014, European neuroscientists conducted a critical study on animals, which offered another explanation as to why cannabis, specifically THC, may be able to treat anorexia. In fact, authors of the study found, that the way THC activates the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 receptor, increases the desire to eat by heightening our sensitivity to taste and smell.

The truth is, anorexia is a highly complex psychiatric disorder, and as such, certain therapeutic interventions are necessary to help a person truly heal. If we do not examine and alter the underlying emotional and cognitive issues, the person is quite likely to eventually succumb to relapse or develop another self-destructive coping mechanism, very possibly addiction. We know that up to 50 percent of those with eating disorders also have substance use disorders.

Marijuana is becoming a fixture of discussion as more laws are passed regulating its medical use. In the eating disorder community, there are varying opinions as to using marijuana in eating disorder recovery and the role it can play.

It is important to discuss your concerns with your treatment team to determine whether medical marijuana will be a helpful tool in your recovery. Please keep in mind that THC affects everyone differently. Be honest with your team if it is exacerbating your eating disorder in any way or serving as a harmful coping mechanism.

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