Can cannabis and CBD be useful against anorexia?
Anorexia is a food disorder potentially dangerous for the survival of the individual, characterized by excessive weight loss and an altered perception of the body. According to the National Association of Eating Disorders, it is the most common among this type of pathology and the one with the highest mortality rate: one of the most studied therapeutic expedients in the world for the treatment of this pathology is therapeutic cannabis.
Primary and secondary anorexia
Primary anorexia (the one not triggered by the onset of other diseases) often has causes related to childhood traumas suffered also during the adolescent period, but numerous scientific studies also recognize the presence of genetic and biological factors on the development of the pathology.
In addition to being a separate pathology, anorexia can also be a condition secondary to the presence of another disease. For example, the refusal of food or the difficulty of feeding oneself following the aggravation of highly debilitating and painful illnesses (tumours, HIV …) or the use of particularly aggressive drugs (such as chemotherapeutics).
Symptoms and treatment of anorexia
Among the most common symptoms of anorexia, there is obviously the rapid and progressive loss of body weight, the obsession with the counting of calories introduced in the body, an altered vision of the image of one’s body and a tendency to over-control. The weakening of the body caused by the refusal of food in people suffering from anorexia can lead to death by decay or to an exponential increase in suicidal tendencies. The therapies currently used in the approach to this pathology are still predominantly non-pharmacological. But recently the scientific medical approach has begun to open up to the use of therapeutic cannabis as a functional therapy for anorexia. Let’s see how cannabis can help people suffering from this disease to heal or improve their condition.
Therapeutic cannabis for the treatment of anorexia
Where traditional medicine and behavioural therapies are unsuccessful, cannabis is thought to stimulate appetite and make the idea of eating a full meal acceptable. In a non-medical talk, it is called “the munchies”: we talk about the desire for food that usually takes place after the consumption of cannabis. It is an impelling and apparently unmotivated need to introduce caloric foods to find relief from a sudden and voracious hunger. It is entirely reasonable to think that “the munchies” effect induced by marijuana consumption can counteract anorexia. The stimulating action on the endocannabinoid system of cannabis molecules such as THC and CBD is for many researchers the key to this increase in the desire to feed that, for people who constantly suffer from food waste, can be a huge help. According to several studies, imbalances within our endocannabinoid system are closely related to the development of eating disorders. This means that cannabinoid treatments could prove to be an effective therapeutic weapon because of their intrinsic ability to stimulate the endocannabinoid system and bring the right balance necessary to restore the body’s health. But there are also other benefits that cannabinoids can give to those suffering from low appetite, first of all, one of the most common forms of anorexia is the nervous one and the introduction into the body of CBD (assisted by low levels of THC) is an effective remedy against many forms of anxiety and depression. At the same time, these precious cannabinoids also have a very effective anti-emetic action and are therefore able to reduce nausea, even that induced by aggressive pharmacological treatments (such as what happens with chemotherapy).
Is it legal to use therapeutic cannabis for the treatment of anorexia?
There are many states that have authorized the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of eating disorders. At least for this, Italy is in line with the times, as (as required by the Ministerial Decree of November 9, 2015) the prescription of medical cannabis is provided for: chronic pain and that associated with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury; nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, HIV therapy; as a stimulant of appetite in cachexia, anorexia, loss of appetite in cancer patients or patients with AIDS and in anorexia nervosa; for the hypotensive effect in glaucoma; for the reduction of involuntary body and facial movements in Gilles de la Tourette syndrome. As you can see the Italian law is very clear in this regard: every form of anorexia and cachexia is legally treatable with the prescription of therapeutic cannabis. Too bad that cannabinoid prescriptions for this type of pathology are still very few, at least in Italy. But we are sure that in the not too distant future access to therapeutic cannabis will be finally facilitated, especially now that the World Health Organization is trying to rehabilitate the beneficial qualities of cannabis.