Weed can do much to your body and mind. It can make you high, causing an uplifted, euphoric mood and a rise in creativity. In other instances, weed can calm you down and reduce your anxiety or stress, thus improving your sleep quality. Yet, one more effect for which weed is well-known is the feeling of hunger attacking you right after smoking a joint or consuming a weed-infused edible.
So, when you smoke your favorite London Pound Cake weed, you can expect not only the feeling of high but also a quick rise in appetite. These are the so-called “munchies” that affect most weed users and are associated with the THC effect on the appetite regulators in the human brain.
This effect has increased the use of marijuana in the treatment of eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa or chemotherapy-associated nausea and absence of appetite. However, an unexpected side effect of weed is also an onset of bulimia – uncontrolled eating of excessive doses of food. Here we examine the existing evidence about weed’s effect on appetite and explore the range of therapeutic uses and risks regarding eating disorders.
Marijuana and Anorexia
Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder that develops due to pathological concerns about one’s weight and body shape. It often starts with strict dieting and calorie-counting, ending with a dangerous condition of food non-acceptance by the digestive system. In other words, anorexic people can starve to death and suffer irreparable organ damage because of extreme weight loss.
Can weed help in the fight against anorexia? There’s a rich body of clinical research suggesting its positive effect on appetite and frequent use in anorexia patients’ treatment:
- THC is a psychoactive compound of weed that increases appetite by affecting the appetite receptors in the human brain (in other words, THC “convinces” your brain that the body is super hungry, even if it’s not).
- Andries et al. reported the use of weed for anorexia treatment and discovered its potent effect on healthy weight gain among patients.
- Soria-Gomez et al. also conducted a study on animals and showed that weed consumption gradually increases the pleasure of food consumption, which can also be of practical value in anorexia treatment.
Marijuana and Bulimia
Bulimia is the opposite of anorexia, but it is also a pathological mental condition. Bulimia nervosa presupposes uncontrolled eating of much food as a compulsive act. Bulimia is often followed by vomiting, as the human body may not be able to cope with the large amounts of food tossed into it. Thus, bulimia is not necessarily a cause of obesity; patients with bulimia may eat tons of food but still remain thin as they purge after the uncontrolled eating sessions.
- Jolly et al. found that people with eating disorders, including bulimia, are more prone to substance use disorders because urges to eat food have the same dopaminergic and opiate pathway. Thus, patients with bulimia are not recommended to consume weed, as their risk of addiction is way higher than that of the general population.
- Goyal et al. advocated using weed to treat digestive disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, secretion problems, and motility-related issues. However, they noted that the therapeutic value of THC for these disorders is reasonable for cases that don’t involve the psychopathology of eating, thus cautioning users against unresponsible weed use for anorexia or bulimia.
Can Weed Use Trigger Binge Eating?
Binge eating is the vice of modern Americans. It occurs in women more often than in men, and the condition is characterized by regular over-eating. Most often, people get the binge-eating disorder diagnosis in adulthood; it’s not that common among children or adolescents.
So, what are the symptoms of binge eating? Everyone overeats from time to time, especially at some social events, celebrations, or restaurants cooking delicious food. But symptoms of a clinical disorder are a bit different; you may suspect a binge-eating disorder diagnosis if you lack control over food consumption, overeat regularly, and continuously feel stress, anxiety, or depression that you try to mitigate with disorderly eating.
Due to the feeling of “munchies” that weed consumption causes, some clinicians warn people prone to binge eating about the risks of cannabis use. They are afraid that weed can intensify the feeling of hunger and cause overeating much more often. However, there is little clinical evidence of such risks. Moreover, weed is often used in the therapy of stress, anxiety, and depression as it produces a soothing, stress-relieving effect on the patients. Thus, it’s hypothesized that by reducing the stress level, weed can produce the opposite effect of better appetite regulation and rarer binge eating. Anyway, a consultation with a medical professional is advised.
The Intricate Relationship between Cannabis Use and the Way You Perceive Food
As you can see, there is little clinical evidence that weed use can cause eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating. It’s also used to treat anorexia nervosa due to its pronounced appetite regulation effect and the calming impact of CBD. Thus, it’s vital to understand the mechanisms of weed’s impact on your brain and appetite receptors to predict the far-reaching consequences and effects of regular marijuana use.