Among the many conditions that plague the modern world, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can have a severe effect on mental health and quality of life for people who suffer from them.
And while we do not know the exact causes for certain, many leading experts believe that it has a lot to do with difficult and judgmental social factors.
Additionally, just like so many other psychological conditions, eating disorders do not have a cure.
Sure, there are many expensive treatments and even anti-anxiety medications which your doctor may suggest to you, but none of them are a permanent solution or even are 100% effective.
This is where cannabis comes in. Ever since legalization began in Canada, numerous institutes and hospitals have started looking into the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
Among others, one question they have been asking is this, can cannabis help treat, or even possible cure eating disorders?
After all, munchies are one of the most commonly reported effects of cannabis, and there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there which suggests that cannabis can be used to treat both anorexia and bulimia.
But before we discuss whether cannabis can or cannot help treat eating disorders, let’s take a look at what eating disorders actually are. So without further ado, let’s begin.
What exactly are eating disorders?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders are illnesses, in which people face extreme disturbances and variations in their eating behaviors and related emotions and thoughts.
It is not uncommon for people suffering from eating disorders to become overly self obsessed with their weight and food consumptions, and suffer from psychological problems such as low self esteem, depression, anxiety, and anger.
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more common than you expect. In fact, according to the National Eating Disorders Association, more than 20 million men and 10 million women will develop an eating disorder sometime between the ages of 12 and 35.
In fact, according to an extensive survey conducted by the American National Institution of Mental Health, around 25% of college students suffer from an eating disorder, with anorexia being the most common one.
But what’s even more troubling is the fact that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disease, a staggering 12.8%. In fact, a horrifying 6% of all anorexic patients commit suicide.
Statistics like these are a major reason we need a cure for eating disorders.
But before we decide whether such a cure can be found in cannabis, let’s take a deeper look at the two biggest eating disorders:
Anorexia and bulimia.
What is Anorexia?
According to WebMD, Anorexia, or Anorexia Nervosa as it is sometimes called, is a potentially life threatening, eating disorder the symptoms of which include self starvation and excessive weight loss.
Patients suffering from Anorexia suffer from extremely low body weight, dysmorphia (a negative perception of one’s body), obsessive counting of calories, and an impulsive need to control one’s external environment.
At the same time, mental conditions such as low self esteem, depression, fatigue, mood swings, and even chronic stress are also quite common among sufferers, making recovery even more difficult. .
What causes Anorexia?
Historically, many experts believed that Anorexia was caused by negative and “toxic” socio-cultural environments. These included the attitudes and behaviors of friends, families, peers, religious leaders etc towards the desirability of being slim and thin.
However, today, scientific evidence suggests that Anorexia can be caused through genetics and neurobiological factors.
Can cannabis treat Anorexia?
To many, the idea that cannabis can treat Anorexia may seem like a no brainer. After all, the psychoactive drug’s ability to cause munchies has been validated through research on its benefits for people suffering from HIV/AIDs.
Even though it is a popular topic, very little research has been completed and published on it.
Nonetheless, what little scientific evidence we have still looks extremely promising. A 2011 Belgian study concluded that the body’s endocannabinoid system has had a major role to play in the development of anorexia and other eating disorders.
They concluded that cannabinoid derived medications, along with helpful therapy can help correct the endocannabinoid system, and help the patient to return to normal.
At the same time, an animal study conducted in 2014 indicated that cannabinoids like THC can treat anorexia, by activating the CB1 receptor (one of the two main receptors found in the endocannabinoid system) and allowing the user to derive more pleasure from the taste and scent of food.
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Now that we’re done with anorexia, let’s take a look at the second most dangerous eating disorder: bulimia.
What is Bulimia?
The second most serious eating disorder, Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating, followed by excessive exercise or vomiting to avoid gaining weight.
Not only does this repeated cycle create imbalances in your digestive system and body, it can also cause organ damage and can even cause heart and kidney failure.
Bulimia is more common in younger women, though it can affect men and women of any age just as easily, Let’s take a look at some of the causes of Bulimia Nervosa.
What causes Bulimia?
While the exact causes of Bulimia nervosa were never truly identified, many expert psychologists believe that emotional and psychological issues are to blame. People with low self esteem, facing tough peer pressure and anxiety seem to fall easy prey to bulimia, and so do women competing in artistic or sports based professions.
Can Cannabis treat Bulimia?
The short answer is yes, and munchies have a major role to play here. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are able to activate the body’s endocannabinoid system, and attach to the receptors responsible for sensations such as hunger and taste.
While many people would assume that munchies would do no more than cause patients to eat more, and after that vomit even more, this isn’t exactly the case.
Instead, the right strain will bring Bulimic patients a sense of pleasure in eating which they would otherwise be missing. In fact, these receptors in the insula region make the food seem extremely tasty and delicious, and restrains the individual from purging.
Looking for the best strains to treat bulimia?