Does Cannabis Help Anorexia (Is THC an Appetite Stimulant)

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

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Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that impacts the way an individual views food and their body. Typically the goal of those with anorexia is to gain control of their body and weight. 

Individuals with anorexia will often restrict food intake in an effort to change their body. They may follow extreme diets that align with reduced food consumption. Other behaviors may include the use of enemas or laxatives, or exercising in a way or to a degree that can be harmful to the body.

Because many actions associated with anorexia mirror healthy behaviors – avoiding unhealthy foods, frequent exercise – it can be difficult to identify. And many people may dismiss the eating disorder as a “choice not to eat.” However, anorexia nervosa is a real condition with serious health implications that should be taken seriously. 

Thankfully, there are treatment and support options available. The question many cannabis consumers want to know is: can medical marijuana be effective in helping treat anorexia? 

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What Causes Anorexia?

There isn’t one cause for anorexia. Societal pressures and family views on the body can expose individuals to diet culture and impossible beauty standards at a young age. Alternatively, anorexia nervosa may develop as a coping mechanism to feel a sense of control when dealing with difficult emotions or major life changes. Individuals might begin with slight calorie restriction before their “normal” or “healthy” diet cascades into a full-blown eating disorder.

Anorexia Signs & Symptoms

Anorexia is most commonly diagnosed in teenage girls, but it can impact any gender or age. And because the initial impact of anorexia can look like healthy behavior, it can be a difficult condition for individuals and their loved ones to recognize.

If you are experiencing anorexia, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Food restriction
  • Binging and purging
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Menstruation ending
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia

How Cannabis Can Help Alleviate Anorexia

how cannabis can provide relief

Anorexia nervosa can develop for different reasons, and there is no singular approach to treating the eating disorder. Instead, it’s important to have a variety of treatment options available. One of the most common is psychotherapy. But, increasingly, individuals and medical practitioners are considering medical marijuana.

One of the most direct ways that cannabis can help reduce anorexia symptoms is by increasing appetite. Cannabis can be an incredibly powerful appetite stimulant, encouraging individuals to eat when they might otherwise avoid a meal.1 Not only that, but cannabis has been known to increase the level of satisfaction from eating, which may help counteract feelings of guilt or anxiety the individual might experience at mealtime.

Anxiety about food and insomnia caused by an unhealthy diet can also contribute to a cycle of unhealthy eating behaviors. Cannabis has also been known to help individuals sleep.2 And anxiety is one of the most common reasons doctors prescribe medical cannabis.

Cannabis has shown promise as an effective way to reduce eating disorder symptoms. However, medical marijuana is not a cure for eating disorders, and it’s important to use cannabis in a healthy way that will bring balance to your relationship with food. As such, the most important step a potential patient can take when considering medical marijuana to treat anorexia is to speak with their doctor about the potential applications, products, and doses.

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers anorexia to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.

If you find that your state recognizes anorexia or its symptoms as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to get your medical cannabis card in your state.

How Nugg Can Help

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NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 21 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,000,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all of their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis & Anorexia

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with anorexia or are starting to experience symptoms, then you probably have some questions. Here are some of the commonly asked questions we hear at NuggMD:

Is it possible to use edibles for appetite stimulation? 

Yes! Edibles can be extremely effective at increasing appetite. And consumers can use tinctures, infused drinks, or THC pills if they wish to avoid sugary edibles like chocolates or gummies.

When taking edibles for appetite stimulation, it’s important to remember that dosage may vary from person to person. While one individual might get “the munchies” from 2.5mg of THC, another might require 20mg of THC. As a general rule, it’s recommended to start with a low dose and then increase if needed.

Can weed cause eating disorders? 

Cannabis can impact eating habits, which is worth paying close attention to when trying to treat an eating disorder. However, the change in appetite only lasts while the individual is under the influence. Additionally, many consumers report that cannabis makes food more enjoyable, not less. As such, cannabis is unlikely to cause eating disorders.

What if I can’t eat without weed? 

Some people that consume cannabis regularly and in large amounts can develop a dependence on weed. This can result in feeling like you need cannabis in order to have an appetite. If this is the case for you, consider speaking with a medical professional. It may mean that you need to reduce your cannabis intake for a time and your appetite will return.

What is the best form of cannabis to take if I want to increase my appetite? 

Edibles and smoking are the two main consumption methods for those dealing with anorexia. Topical products typically won’t provide the benefits that doctors or patients want when treating an eating disorder.

Is it possible to continue using cannabis if I’m in eating disorder treatment?

Different treatment programs will have different attitudes towards cannabis, so check with the staff at the facility where you’re receiving treatment.


1.  Scharmer, Christina, Brianna R. Altman, Joseph M. Donahue, Drew A. Anderson, and Mitchell Earleywine. 2020. “Expectancies about the Effects of Cannabis Use on Eating Disorder Symptoms.” Substance Use & Misuse, May, 1–9.

2.  Kesner, Andrew J., and David M. Lovinger. 2020. “Cannabinoids, Endocannabinoids and Sleep.” Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 13 (July).

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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