Can marijuana be used for eating disorder recovery? People with other mental illnesses and disorders have had success with medical marijuana, so this theory isn’t too off base.
The National Eating Disorder Association estimates 20 million women and 10 million men in the US suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. While there are many types of eating disorders, three common types are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.
These mental illnesses cause dire health consequences and often require treatment for a long road to recovery. Can marijuana help?
Endocannabinoid System & Appetite
The human body comes equipped with an endocannabinoid system. This system exists in regions of the brain controlling food intake as well as reward and energy. Cannabinoid receptors make up this system. Specifically, CB1 cannabinoid receptors promote appetite and associate reward with food. If these CB1 receptors appear deficient, it causes the behaviors and traits noticed in eating disorders patients. To fix this, marijuana can help. But it is important to note that marijuana affects each person with an eating disorder differently.
Anorexia nervosa is characterized by harsh food restriction and body image issues. Recently, researchers performed a study on people with this eating disorders. They found genetic links between anorexia and many mental illnesses like neuroticism and schizophrenia. These connections allow for the classification of anorexia as a psychiatric illness. What drives this illness may, in fact, be the eating disorders brain’s deficiency in CB1 receptors. But marijuana offers a solution.
Treating Anorexia With Marijuana
Treating anorexia with marijuana works in two ways. First, it gives the user the munchies by exciting the body’s senses in a part of the brain called the insula. Simply put, marijuana makes someone smell and taste more keenly. And so they want to eat more.
Second, marijuana treats anorexia on a psychological level. Again the insula plays a role. In this part of the brain, sensory experience, emotions and thoughts combine. For those with anorexia, anxiety about eating happens at this site. But marijuana can help. By stimulating this part of the brain with marijuana, it activates those limited CB1 receptors in someone with an eating disorders. Just a little toke to stoke those receptors, and once again eating can be a pleasurable and not an anxious experience.
Treating Bulimia With Marijuana
Bulimia looks similar to anorexia in that the person with the illness obsesses over food. But with bulimia, self-control can sometimes be hard. Often the illness compels the patient to want that control back. So they purge what they’ve eaten, either by vomiting or using laxatives. So for those with bulimia, the marijuana munchies could seem an unwanted side effect. After all, all that eating only means more purging, right?
Not exactly. Marijuana still gives that sense of pleasure in eating by activating those same receptors in the insula. This makes the person suffering bulimia less likely to purge. They enjoy the process of eating instead of feeling guilty. Also, the act of enjoying marijuana distracts from the mental chokehold of the eating disorders. Using marijuana to treat bulimia, patterns of bingeing and purging can be replaced with the ritual of marijuana and the calming effects of the drug. Just this reduction in anxiety may help lead to recovery.
But can marijuana be used for eating disorder recovery if someone binges or overeats?
High-CBD Strains For Binge Eaters
But in the case of over-eating or binge-eating disorder, those munchies might seem like the worst side effect for treating their illness. Wrong! Marijuana helps those without control over their eating just like it helps those who restrict or purge.
Defined by the habitual loss of control over food intake, binge-eating disorder tops the list of common eating disorders in the US. Treatment must happen to curb obesity and diabetes in these patients. But there is good news. Marijuana supplies someone with this disorder with the same calm as it does other eating disorders. Sure, blazing up might cause someone to polish off a whole pizza and eat a pint of ice cream. But the right strain high in CBD and low in THC gets rid of the danger of the munchies.
Furthermore, research shows that cannabis users have lower body mass index, lower fat mass, and lower fasting insulin levels. So medical marijuana treatment can help to lower fat and BMI as well as reduce the risk of diabetes in those with a binge-eating disorder.
Final Hit: Can Marijuana Be Used For Eating Disorder Recovery
So can marijuana be used for eating disorder recovery? Science seems to say so. But while all eating disorders stand to benefit from marijuana, it cannot replace medical and psychiatric intervention. If you or someone you love struggles with an eating disorder, seek help from a qualified medical professional. And during the appointment, maybe ask your doctor about using marijuana to aid in your recovery.