Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by extreme weight loss, a distorted body image, and an irrational fear of food. People who suffer from this condition are typically malnourished and may need to be hospitalized due to the severity of their symptoms. While conventional treatments such as therapy and medication have had some success in treating Anorexia Nervosa, many patients are now turning to medical marijuana (MMJ) for help. 

Anorexia: a Qualifying Condition for a Medical Card

For the record, anorexia nervosa is an approved medical condition that qualifies for an MMJ card in Illinois and most other states with a state-authorized medical marijuana program. If you are considering getting a medical card, it should only take 10-20 minutes to get approved.

Are you Suffering from Anorexia or other Eating Disorders?

Consider speaking to a knowledgeable marijuana doctor about using medical marijuana as part of your treatment plan.

Anorexia Nervosa is a severe mental illness associated with dysregulated eating that disproportionately affects young women. Even when dangerously thin, people suffering from this disorder maintain an intense fear of gaining weight and have a distorted body image which causes them to restrict their calorie intake severely. Most people need some medical intervention if they want to beat the disease.

Common Symptoms Include:

  • Consistent Hunger Avoidance.
  • Persistent and obsessive thoughts and unhealthy behaviors with an emphasis on staying thin.
  • Body shape perception issues that cause low self-esteem.


Eating disorders present many complex and difficult challenges for treatment, particularly when Substance Use Disorders are involved. An integrative clinical model should be considered to address SUDs and other symptoms associated with eating disorders like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression.

There are many other eating disorders that medical weed helps treat, but for this article, we will focus on Anorexia.

Other Types of Eating Disorders

  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Rumination disorder
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • Purging disorder
  • Night eating syndrome
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)

Traditional Anorexia Treatments

Although traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and appetite stimulants are often effective for some patients, some may not respond to these treatments or find them inadequate. Fortunately, medical weed can play a role in managing anorexia and improving the quality of life for those living with it.

It’s crucial to remember that weight should not be the primary criterion for diagnosing anorexia. Body mass index (BMI) has become less relevant since individuals who are medically categorized as usual or overweight can still have significant health risks associated with this condition; This is known as atypical anorexia and may include notable amounts of weight loss without having a low BMI. Additionally, people with Anorexia might demonstrate OCD behavior with food, constantly thinking about it. They may also have difficulty eating openly and wish to regulate their environment more than usual due to its influence on them during meals.

Anorexia is a severe eating disorder and a life-threatening condition characterized by restricted diets, intense fear of gaining weight, and persistent attempts to avoid it even when underweight. It affects an individual’s physical, psychological, and social well-being as a result of a restricting diet and caloric intake. They may lose weight through extreme dieting or exercise. These behaviors can have long-term consequences like thinning bones, infertility problems, brittle hair/nails, etc. In severe cases, it has even been known cause heart failure leading to death if left untreated.

People with this condition have a distorted body image leading them to deny their dangerously low level of health. They also place excessive importance on their body shape or perceived size in terms of self-esteem, all due to the relentless pursuit of being thin.

Does Medical Marijuana Help Treat Anorexia?

MMJ has been used to treat various eating disorders, including anorexia, for decades. Studies have shown that THC (the active compound found in cannabis) can stimulate appetite while reducing anxiety and depression, which are common symptoms associated with anorexia. Additionally, CBD (another active compound found in cannabis) helps reduce inflammation and pain, which are additional symptoms associated with anorexia.

For individuals looking for alternative remedies to mental health issues, medical cannabis has emerged as a potentially helpful tool when used with therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

Cannabis Comes in Three Primary Strains:

  • Sativa, known to energize its user while potentially helping relieve symptoms of depression.
  • Indica – more sedating with full-body effects that could be beneficial, particularly among eating disorder patients.
  • Hybrids are a combination with both properties.(balanced benefits)


In addition to its medicinal properties, medical weed may benefit people with anorexia who find traditional treatments ineffective or insufficient. For example, some people find that medical cannabis allows them to experience pleasure without consuming food. This can help break the cycle of fear and guilt associated with eating and provide a sense of relief from their condition. Furthermore, the psychoactive effects of cannabis can help lift moods and reduce anxiety levels which can be beneficial for those suffering from anorexia.

Marijuana Research for Anorexia

Let’s take a closer look at how cannabis can help those with Anorexia Nervosa. In one study, significant improvements were found in self-reported body care. Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, may have their root cause in the brain. A fascinating study published in Biological Psychiatry revealed the intricate involvement of our endocannabinoid system, a set of neurotransmitters that operates similarly to those found when using cannabis. There appears to be something abnormal with this complex network that leads people down a path toward poor eating habits or binging behavior. Evidence for marijuana’s influence has been shown to affect a person’s mood, feeding behavior, feelings and appetite, and mental health state.

The Endocannabinoid System Affects these Bodily Functions

  • Sleep
  • Eating/Appetite
  • Metabolism
  • Stress and Mood
  • Pain 
  • Skin
  • Liver function
  • Kidney function 
  • Learning and memory
  • Emotional processing
  • Temperature control
  • Inflammatory and immune responses

The Role of Medical Marijuana in Treating Anorexia

Researchers have found that the primary compound in marijuana, THC, can stimulate metabolism and increase caloric intake by as much as 40 percent. Subsequently, this could benefit individuals struggling with eating disorders who need to restore their weight or those dealing with anxiety-related issues due to its calming properties. Two to three joints increased daily caloric intake.

Women with anorexia or bulimia have a significantly under-active marijuana-like neurotransmitter system in their brains, according to scientists from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. The researchers conducted PET scans on thirty women. They compared them against age-matched control women finding that those suffering from eating disorders had unusual activity within the insula area of their brain. The insula is the part of the brain that connects food’s taste to our emotional response suggesting why patients develop unhealthy eating rituals during meals.

Medical Marijuana as an Appetite Stimulant

One of the most well-known effects of marijuana is its ability to stimulate appetite. This is why it has long been used as a treatment for people with HIV/AIDS or cachexia who experience extreme weight loss due to the disease’s effects on their appetite. There is good reason to believe that the same effect could be beneficial for those with Anorexia Nervosa, helping those with the eating disorder regulate their hunger and increase their caloric intake resulting in weight gain. 

What are the Munchies?

Everyone has heard of someone getting the “munchies” after getting high. Scientific research has illuminated why many of us may indulge in unhealthy snacks when under the influence. Ingesting THC tricks our brains and regulates hunger and emotions, making us hungry. A byproduct is a release of dopamine to enhance the enjoyment of any activity especially eating delicious (but often high-calorie) fats, salts, and sugars. So don’t beat yourself up – your brain sends a double dose of pleasure signals. If you are experiencing anorexia, cannabis might be the medicine that helps you get back to healthy eating.

Marijuana and Anxiety Relief

Anxiety is a primary cause of Anorexia Nervosa, leading sufferers to become overwhelmed by emotions that they struggle to cope with or even understand. As such, anxiety relief can be a valuable tool in managing this condition and getting it under control. Many studies have shown that marijuana can be effective at reducing anxiety symptoms, making it a potential weapon against Anorexia Nervosa as well.

Marijuana for Mental Health Support

Medical cannabis may also be helpful for those suffering from mental health issues related to their Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis. For example, research has found that marijuana use can reduce symptoms associated with depression and bipolar disorder, common conditions among those with Anorexia Nervosa. It may also help provide psychological support during times of crisis or emotional distress. 

Preliminary research has shown ganja can reduce cravings and binge eating episodes in individuals afflicted with anorexia-related conditions such as bulimia nervosa. This can further improve the quality of life of those affected by this severe disorder as they may no longer be driven by uncontrollable urges to eat large amounts of food at once. 

Pot has medicinal properties that can help manage symptoms such as inflammation and pain. It can also relieve psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, which often accompany this disorder. In addition, it provides users with another avenue for experiencing pleasure without consuming food, which can be beneficial for breaking free from the cycle of fear associated with eating disorders.

In conclusion, there are many potential benefits that medical marijuana may offer those struggling with Anorexia Nervosa. From stimulating appetite and anxiety relief to providing mental health support during difficult times, cannabis could play an essential role in helping individuals manage their condition more effectively and live healthier lives overall. It’s important to always talk with your doctor before beginning any treatment plan involving cannabis use. If you feel medical marijuana might be right, don’t hesitate to discuss it further with an alternative medical practitioner.

Article reviewed by:

Dr. Richard Koffler

Richard Koffler, MD

NPI Number- 1467557264

  • Dr. Koffler is a Physiatrist, specializing in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 
  • Graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University in 1993 Dr. Koffler completed a one-year internship in internal medicine at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. 
  • Residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Rusk Institute at NYU Medical Center in New York City. Board certified in 1998. 
  • Trained in acupuncture at Helms Medical Institute at UCLA His medical practice incorporates proven conventional western medicine integrating eastern alternative practices. 
  • Medical Director of several medical clinics in NYC, Stamford CT, and Miami Beach, FL.

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