I stand in front of the mirror, I see the dark shadows under my eyes. My jawline and my cheekbones stand out; my eyes sink into my face. 

I run my fingers through my hair, as I reach the ends, I get almost a handful of hair that falls off.  I look back at the miserable, unhappy reflection in the mirror. 

I feel guilty for giving in to buying food at school. And I didn’t work out last night or this morning.

“Don’t even think about eating now! You already had a salad with peanuts and crotons! And you ate everything. Did you see how she was looking at you when you were eating? That girl was definitely staring at you, at how disgusting you look.” That shrill voice in my head reminds me that I already ate today.

My body feels brittle, weak, and paper thin. My teeth begin to peel off; I can see all the detrimental effects of my daily choice, and yet, I can’t stop myself. I have to keep going. I need to lose at least 10 more pounds…

According to the National Eating Disorders (NEDA) website, Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by intense fear of weight gain, a restriction of caloric intake that, often, leads to severe weight loss in relation with an individual’s height, sex, and age. Moreover, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders’ statistics, this eating disorder has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 

Despite a large number of men and women that develop Anorexia, little research has been done on how medical marijuana can be used to treat this disorder. Studies show, that, along with counseling, cannabis can be implemented as an appetite booster. A no-brainer, really, since marijuana is also used to help manage weight loss in people who have HIV or cancer. In 2014, a study showed that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) influences appetite in a cascade effect that takes place after the ECS signals the hypothalamus, which then it communicates with the limbic system, and we get ready to enjoy the food we consume. Furthermore, endocannabinoids work “to slow down the process of gastrointestinal emptying and transit, and appear to stimulate the secretion of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite and food intake.” After we finish a meal, the hormone leptin released by the small intestine gives the brain a satiety signal; this cascade of events reduces the activity in our ECS and lets our bodies know that we’ve had enough to eat.

A 2011 article indicated that “a lack of endocannabinoids in a person’s body could lead to eating disorders.” Medical marijuana interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors and amplifies an individual’s sensory perception to food; unfortunately, only a certain number of states consider Anorexia Nervosa as a “qualifying condition for medical cannabis.” Conventional medicine is also skeptical about medical marijuana as an alternative to treating this mental illness.
Apart from the extreme fear of weight gain, and a dull disposition towards food and social activities that are meant to give us pleasure, Anorexia Nervosa is a cocktail of mental illnesses; served with anxiety, depression, OCD; sometimes substance dependence and abuse.

According to the marijuanadoctors.com website, medical cannabis can be used throughout the various stages of anorexia recovery. When a patient with anorexia is in a critical low weight condition, ingesting marijuana will increase their appetite and help the patient eat willingly; rather than dealing with a feeding tube. If the patient has a substance abuse condition, medical marijuana can be used to help the patient get off their substance dependence. Once the patient is on a healthy weight, cannabis can help treat depression and anxiety.

Both Indica and Sativa strains are recommended for people dealing with Anorexia Nervosa. Due to the whole-body sedating effect of Indica strains, they help treat insomnia and anxiety. The Sativa Strains, on the other hand, have an energy boost effect and can be used to treat depression in patients dealing with Anorexia Nervosa.

For the lack of appetite, the following hybrid strains are recommended:
Pure Kush and GigaBud are both potent Indica strains that will offer an intense feeling of relaxation and will increase appetite.
• The Indica dominant hybrid Maui Bubble Gift is excellent to relieve stomach tension, and it helps to combat nausea.
• Lastly, the Indica strain Platinum Purple Kush provides its users with a positive, bright and happy mindset while inducing hunger.

For Depression and Anxiety, the following strains can be a great alternative to conventional antidepressants:
• Grandaddy Purple, a sedative Indica that is better taken around bedtime since it will give you an upbeat mental state but a heavy body sensation.
• The Sativa Chocolope is common among people that want to alleviate their depression and chronic fatigue.
• The Indica hybrid Pennywise will give its users a slightly sedated and unusually relaxed feeling. Perfect to treat anxiety.
• Blue Dream is the great hybrid strain that can be used during the daytime, offering its users a comfortable, happy, and creative feeling.

Patients dealing with their eating disorder may find it stressful at first to try edibles, however, smoking, vaping, suppositories, tinctures and sprays may be a great alternative to consuming cannabis to help treat their condition.

It’s important to discuss with a doctor, you can start here, the best ways to use medical marijuana to treat Anorexia Nervosa, which works best when implemented with psychological counseling.

A note from the author,

It’s embarrassing to admit that writing this article has triggered my body dysmorphia, old habits, and hurtful flashbacks that I would rather forget. I haven’t felt anxious or desperate regarding my eating disorder in almost a year; naturally, I thought I had it under control. The research I was doing for this article lead me to sites, and images, that vigorously promoted Anorexia Nervosa (Ana) as a lifestyle; a part of me started questioning why I had gotten out of the eating disorder. Without realizing it, I got consumed in a swirl of confusion; writing became difficult, shallow, and fake.

I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa when I turned 15, by the time I was 21 I managed to get to a healthy weight; but my mind was a prison of self-loathing and criticism. My relationship with food was stressful, and it filled my day with anxiety; especially if I was out in public. Just catching my reflection in the mirror or thinking about having to eat, privately or around people, would flood me with fear of gaining weight, being called out or questioned. I lived governed by fear and anxiety for quite a few years.

When I turned 28 I decided to get my master’s degree, soon enough the stress of working full time and going to grad-school began to take a toll on me; I decided to go to counseling. I spoke with three different psychologists, all they wanted me to do was to get on anti-depressants and other serotonin reuptake inhibitors. But I knew it wasn’t something I was willing to try. A close friend of mine suggested medical marijuana, with the argument that it wasn’t a synthetic drug; I decided to give it a try, a bit skeptical because I was afraid of losing control and going into a binge-frenzy.

As soon as I inhaled and released the smoke, I felt myself calm down.

I didn’t worry about my weight, the stress from grad-school, or what other people thought of my physical appearance.

I found myself in a peaceful mental state, freed from the judgmental prison

that my mind had become throughout all of those years. I also felt hungry, and for the first time in 13 years, I didn’t have inhibitions to eat. I enjoyed every bite, and I didn’t care who was watching; I even felt free to eat chocolate. I was able to eat without guilt; to my pleasant surprise, I didn’t go on a ‘munchies-binge-frenzy.’

I used cannabis to treat my condition on a regular basis for the two years I was in grad school, in addition to psychological counseling provided by the university; along with my ‘ready-to-change-mentality,’ marijuana has genuinely helped me overcome my illness. It opened the doors to the freedom of not being a prisoner in my mind. I don’t care about other people’s opinion, and slowly, I have come to accept and love the way I look. The most significant difference, however, is being able to eat whatever I want without feeling guilty or the need to over exercise. Presently I use cannabis occasionally, particularly on strenuous days.
I look back at my younger self, and I realize how far I have come; “to be free is very sweet.”

If you or a loved one are suffering from Anorexia Nervosa or other eating disorders, and you don’t know how or where to start, start here: National Association of Eating Disorders (NEDA) and Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

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