How Medical Marijuana Helps Anorexia Patients

Throughout human history, food has been a central component of all cultures and without it, life ceases. Ask anyone how long they can comfortably go without this necessary commodity, and you’ll likely get an answer of no longer than several hours. People experience hunger pains from lack of food for good reason; it’s your body’s way of making sure you eat in order to stay healthy. Unfortunately for some people, their sense of hunger, or appetite, recedes for a variety of biological and psychological reasons. Without the physical sensation of hunger telling them to consume food, it becomes arduous and daunting to eat. It may not sound like it, but this becomes a very serious condition if left unchecked.

To a patient undergoing chemotherapy for instance, just looking at a plate of food can be overwhelming. Absence of any appetite means that they must force themselves to chew and swallow[ref]”Cancer and Chemo-Based Lack of Appetite and Early Satiety.” Managing Side Effects., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015[/ref]. A healthy person gets immense satisfaction from eating, but an anorexic person (not Anorexia Nervosa- that’s a mental disorder. Anorexia itself is a medical term used to describe lack of appetite) experiences no such thing. Weight loss ensues after a prolonged period of anorexia, causing a myriad of other health issues that compound together and make life a struggle.

Thankfully, clinical trials using a medication called Marinol that utilizes the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) molecule have shown light on THC’s ability to endow intense hunger upon those who ingest it. In studies using AIDS patients as a test population, efficacious appetite stimulation has been sustained for up to five months[ref]”Marinol – FDA Prescribing Information, Side Effects and Uses.” Marinol – FDA Prescribing Information, Side Effects and Uses., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.[/ref].

Negative side effects were mild; tachycardia (elevated heartrate) being one of them. However after twelve days, all patients had acclimated to the THC therapy and this tachycardia subsided on its own. Some might be wary of THC’s effects on mental functioning, but “no decrements in psychological, social or neurological status have been associated with the administration of Marinol Capsules for therapeutic purposes”[ref]”Marinol – FDA Prescribing Information, Side Effects and Uses.” Marinol – FDA Prescribing Information, Side Effects and Uses., n.d. Web. 30 May 2015[/ref]. Scientists have linked the activation of CB1 receptors via THC binding activity throughout the brain to an increase in appetite and consumption of large caloric quantities[ref]3. “Kirkham, TC, and CM Williams. “Endogenous Cannabinoids and Appetite.” Nutrition Research Reviews 14.1 (2001): 65-86. Web. 30 May 2015[/ref].

Put simply, THC reverses anorexia and it appears to cause no detrimental side effects. This is exactly the kind of treatment anorexic patients need. Ensuring patients remain at a healthy body mass index is essential to overcoming any disease, and medical marijuana has given sick patients the will to thrive and survive.