Treating Anorexia With Cannabis

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Treatment With Cannabis For Anorexia Nervosa Patients

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia nervosa is “a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.”

In the minds of the public, this condition is often associated with our culture’s obsession with being slim. However, in recent years, evidence has emerged that the condition is the result of neurobiological factors such as chemical imbalances in the brain.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a condition known as body dysmorphia — a distorted perception of one’s body image. Many anorexia patients become obsessed with trying to control their weight by either not eating enough or purging after eating. Another associated condition known as bulimia shares some features with anorexia. Bulimia patients often alternate between a severely restricted diet and binge eating followed by purging in order to avoid gaining weight.

Research Into the Effects of Cannabis On Anorexia Nervosa Patients

There is evidence which suggests that the human endogenous endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a major role in the brain’s reward circuits related to eating and appetite. A region of the brain known as the insula, — thought to be responsible for our emotional response to eating — has been linked to eating disorders. The insula is where sensory experience, emotions, and thoughts come together. It is intimately involved in bodily sensations including response to pain, temperature, and touch, as well as appetite and digestion.

Using a technique known as positron emission tomography (PET), researchers from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium studied the activity of the endocannabinoid system in the insula in anorexia and bulimia patients. Their research suggested that the ECS was significantly underactive in this area of the brain preventing patients from fully experiencing the biochemical rewards associated eating.

Although cannabis has been researched as a treatment for anorexia associated with cancer and HIV/AIDS, there’s very little research into its effects on anorexia nervosa patients. In 2014, a study was conducted which suggested that the phytocannabinoid delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) enhances the brain’s reward circuits as related to eating by increasing sensitivity to smell and taste. And there has been extensive research which suggests that another common cannabinoid compound, cannabidiol (CBD), can play a significant role in regulating the brain’s reward circuits.

Treating Anorexia With Medical Marijuana

Although anorexia nervosa is not specifically named in the list of medical conditions which qualify Florida residents for a medical marijuana card, Amendment 2 allows certified physicians to recommend cannabis to anorexia patients who they believe can benefit from its use.

At the time of writing, patients are not yet allowed to use smokable marijuana, but products such as cannabis oil capsules and vaporizers are available to medical marijuana patients in Florida.

Vaporizers are both fast acting and provide high bioavailability (the amount of cannabinoids entering the bloodstream). Edible products and tinctures, although they have longer onset times, can provide a more steady supply of cannabinoids in the bloodstream. Anyone using medical marijuana to treat a medical condition should be sure to thoroughly discuss their options with a qualified physician.

There is anecdotal evidence which suggests that anorexia patients have responded well to treatment with both cannabinoid isolates such as purified THC and CBD found in many tinctures and edibles, and full-spectrum products such as cannabis oil which also contain beneficial terpenes produced by the plant.

According to CannaSOS.com, some of the marijuana strains which anorexia patients claim have been effective include Blue Dream, Purple Kush, Critical Sensi Star, Cherry Kush, Green Crack, and Master Jedi. Although smokable forms of these strains are not available in Florida dispensaries, many shops offer full-spectrum distillates of these or similar strains. A knowledgeable “budtender” should be able to recommend a suitable product based on your physician’s advice.

How To Get Medical Marijuana for Anorexia

If you are a resident of a legal state who suffer from Anorexia, you may be eligible for a medical marijuana card. Talk to your doctor about it. If your doctor is not open to the idea of using cannabis to treat your condition you may need to seek out a primary care physician who is.To consult with a certified doctor in order to get a medical marijuana card, fill out the MMJ patient registration form, press submit and a physician or clinic representative will contact you as available.