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Understanding the Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Anorexia

Anorexia is a psychological life-threatening eating disorder characterized by low body weight concerning the person’s height and body structure, fear of becoming overweight or obese and distorted perception of body weight. People who suffer from anorexia have an urge to control their weight and shape, and their efforts to keep their body weight or lose it tend to interfere directly with the person’s activities.

Eating disorders are 10 times more common in women than men, and it affects more than 30 million people in the United States. As the third most common chronic illness among teens, anorexia often starts in adolescence or early adulthood, but it can also begin during preteen ages. It is estimated that 1 in every 100 American women will experience anorexia at some point in their lives.

A person with anorexia severely restricts the quantity of food they ingest to maintain their body weight or to lose weight, controlling the calories by vomiting after eating, diet aids, excessive use of enemas, diuretics, and laxatives. Another thing they do to lose weight is exercising excessively. Some individuals with anorexia binge and purge like people who have bulimia nervosa. Differently from anorexia, people with bulimia have average or above normal body weight.

Individuals with anorexia tend to maintain their body weight lower than 85 percent of what is expected. The complications of anorexia are severe and can cause osteoporosis, insomnia and other symptoms. Eating disorders are reported to have the highest mortality rate of mental illness.

The main sign of anorexia is severe weight loss, and the person usually talks about being overweight, body mass index (BMI) and other measures that are not real. Some physical and psychological signs of anorexia include:

  • Hypotension or blood pressure
  • Dry skin
  • Severe loss of muscle mass
  • Hair loss or alopecia
  • Infertility
  • Lanugo, an increase of facial hair and fine downy hair growing in the whole body
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Brittle nails
  • Excessive concern about being fat
  • Lying about eating
  • Self-denial
  • Depressed mood or lack of emotion
  • Inspecting, measuring and weighing their body excessively
  • Over-exercising
  • Memory loss
  • Not eating or refusing food ingestion
  • Obsession with food
  • Reduced sex drive

No cause has been identified by scientists for anorexia. It is believed that environmental, biological and psychological factors can cause it. However, some risk factors such as having a negative self-image, having had an anxiety disorder in childhood, perfectionism and other things can influence anorexia. 30 to 50 percent of the people diagnosed with anorexia suffer from another mood disorder such as depression or anxiety.

The benefits of marijuana for helping a person with some severe illness gaining weight have been tested in many different types of research. An NCBI study published in 2014 reported that marijuana may increase body mass as a result of having “the munchies” after using it. Patients with HIV/AIDS and/or cancer have had a weight gain after consuming marijuana. Concluding, the author said that “Alternatively, marijuana may genuinely be a regulatory compound, increasing weight in those with low weight, but not in those who are normal or overweight.”

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Data Last Updated 03/16/2020