Treating Anorexia: Is Cannabis A Cure?

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A recent issue of Cosmopolitan magazine included a lengthy article on the use of medical marijuana for those who struggle with anorexia. By and large, the article was positive regarding such usage and it provided several salient and supportive facts. These included such statistics as; medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states as well as the District of Columbia and a record 53 percent of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana.

Through case examples, the article revealed that cannabis helped reduce anxiety and irrational thinking while facilitating food acceptance and consumption in those who used the drug. In other words, it helped women eat.

Here’s the problem. Anyone who has spent any appreciable time treating women with anorexia knows one simple truth: anorexia is not about eating. If it was, then effective treatment would be as easy as forcing a person to ingest X amount of calories each day. There would be no need to understand the “whys” behind the disorder, what purpose it serves in the individual’s life, how the family is involved, etc.

The truth is, anorexia is a highly complex psychiatric disorder, and as such, certain therapeutic interventions are necessary to help a person truly heal. If we do not examine and alter the underlying emotional and cognitive issues, the person is quite likely to eventually succumb to relapse or develop another self-destructive coping mechanism, very possibly addiction. We know that up to 50 percent of those with eating disorders also have substance use disorders.

Another issue that was frequently alluded to in the article related to perception. Several of those interviewed spoke of their dislike of pharmaceutical medication—they rebelled against taking pills. However, this antipathy did not extend to marijuana. The usual expressions, “it’s from the earth,” and “weed is natural,” were heavily relied on. The problem is, marijuana, even if it comes from the earth, is a drug; and in many markets today, it is not a well-regulated drug.

Are psychotropic drugs often used in the treatment of anorexia? Yes, but every physician knows, when using medications, certain general principles apply, such as choosing the drug that provides the greatest benefit with the least harmful side effects. When used chronically, marijuana has been shown to increase risk of depression; also it is neurotoxic, which means it kills brain cells. This makes it a less than ideal “medicine.”

One of the more disturbing aspects of this article was the reference to marijuana as a “cure” for anorexia; this reference was made by a physician. The only cure for anorexia is recovery. In fact, that is the ultimate goal of treatment. Recovery is synonymous with freedom. Freedom from being bound to a substance or a behavior to make your way through life. Being able to find and remain connected to the wisdom within, the Higher Power within that provides a sustainable power source to live abundantly.

This is true freedom. This is recovery.

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