How Cannabis Relates to Eating Disorders: Anorexia

a woman with Eating Disorders

Cannabis gives patients a path to fight mental health naturally.


Cannabis has already been proven to help many cancer and HIV/AIDS patients with the symptoms of these conditions such as weight loss, lack of appetite and severe anxiety. There is some evidence to suggest cannabis may also alleviate the similar
symptoms of anorexia. There is more research needed to make significant conclusions, but this has been hampered by the lack of access to cannabis as medicine for patients in many states.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia Nervosa is categorized as a mental health disorder. It is primarily diagnosed by the self-starving and weight loss symptoms. Some other major aspects include Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), obsessing over calorie intake, feeling the need to be in control and having a difficult time finding enjoyment in activities considered enjoyable, including eating. The National Eating Disorder Association has estimated that 20 million women and 10 million men will develop an eating disorder, anorexia being one of the most common. Anorexia also has one of the highest mortality rates with 6% of patients committing suicide; it is a dangerous disorder.

How can Cannabis help the patients?

Though cannabis has not been found to be the “cure-all” for anorexia patients, it can offer extraordinary aid to the current treatments, as the elements naturally found in cannabis stimulate the appetite without the adverse side effects of other options. The director of clinical research at the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, Tamara Pryor believes cannabis should not be considered the solitary treatment for this or similar conditions, “Marijuana may be a helpful tool for some people — in conjunction with therapy.” (Leafly) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often necessary for treating Anorexia Nervosa. The disorder can stem from trauma as a child or society’s demand for being thin as beautiful; genetics and neurological background also play important roles in the genesis of the condition.

How do people use it?

The form in which anorexia patients ingest cannabis may play a part in success. It is based on the needs of the patient, and how well they respond to it. The most common include smoking, vaping or ingesting oil by pill or liquid form under the tongue.

How does it work?

The endocannabinoid system had been found to play a rather large part in appetite and when it isn’t in balance, eating disorders develop. A study on mice by neurologists in Europe was conducted in 2014. Which suggested the possibility that THC was able to be received by receptor CB1. It increased the sense of smell and taste, encouraging the mice
to eat.

Another study took place on humans conducted by the Center for Eating Disorders, Department of Endocrinology, Odense University Hospital. Twenty-four women over the age of 18 were given a synthetic cannabinoid, alternated with a placebo in order to
find true effects on their anorexic conditions. The conclusion was hopeful, as an average of 1.6 pounds was gained. There were no withdrawal or addiction symptoms from any of the patients. These people were followed up over the next couple years with the conclusion of gained health and nutrition.

What is the current legality?

At this time, many states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, and some for recreation. The states that have allowed it as medicine have certain requirements in order to qualify for a prescription, but anorexia is not on some of the state’s lists. There are many success stories, one lady who had struggled with anorexia told Leafly
cannabis is a “short-term solution to a long-term problem.” adding that “It worked remarkably well. I became less self-conscious, I lost my obsession over counting calories, and I started enjoying food again.” She claims to have beat anorexia within 6 months.

This is a remarkable outcome, however, those with this condition or other eating disorders should always consult with a doctor.  As well as types of therapy are recommended with the cannabis regimen. Though there is not yet a substantial amount of evidence due to the lack of controlled experiments, there are many people willing to come forward and speak well of cannabis with their own testimonies as evidence. This gives hope for the future, that
cannabis may be a well-known and widely used treatment for those suffering with this life-threatening disease.