As medical marijuana continues to be legalized in more states nationwide, it is important to examine how this impacts the eating disorder community. Can medical marijuana be an effective treatment for anorexia nervosa? What are the benefits and drawbacks?
Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Anorexia Nervosa
There is very little research on medical marijuana specifically for eating disorder treatment, but it is often implemented as an appetite stimulant for those with other serious medical conditions. It certainly has the potential to boost appetite in those with anorexia nervosa, who are often not in touch with their natural hunger cues.
A past study  reported that smoking marijuana can increase an individual’s caloric intake by as much as 40 percent. THC, the primary chemical compound present in marijuana, stimulates metabolism and, in this study, contributed to increased snacking in both social and private settings.
Increased appetite and snacking behaviors might certainly be beneficial for weight restoration and the beginning stages of eating disorder recovery. It could be argued that later in recovery, the relaxing properties often reported with medical marijuana might also help with symptoms of co-occurring anxiety or related issues.
Important Factors to Consider
Of course, the benefits of medical marijuana remain controversial, particularly in relation to its use within the mental health community. Eating disorders commonly co-occur with substance abuse, leading to the possibility of dependence, whether psychological or physical, on medical marijuana.
Additionally, medical marijuana should not be the only form of treatment that an individual receives. As with any medication for eating disorder treatment, this needs to be in conjunction with therapy, nutritional monitoring, etc.
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.
By supporting increased research in this area, we can better determine the benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of anorexia nervosa.
About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Director of Operations & Business Development at Eating Disorder Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.
References:: Foltin, R., Fischman, M., Byrne, M. (1988). “Effects of Smoked Marijuana on Food Intake and Body Weight of Humans Living in a Residential Laboratory.” Appetite, 198, 11, 1-14.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 25, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com