Recovery with  Cannabis + Paying It Forward

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Anorexia Nervosa is a complicated neuropsychiatric illness and one that I would not wish on my worst enemy. For most of my life, I have always felt a blanket sense of inadequacy, often striving for perfection that simply doesn’t exist. How does this relate to anorexia, you may ask? The answer is not simple, universal, or logical, but in my personal experiences, after years of feeling an overwhelming sense of not being good enough, I falsely believed that I could find peace in controlling my body. If I liked my body, everything else would feel okay, or so I thought.

My eating disorder began after being diagnosed with a rare autoimmune eye disease, Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Disease, during my freshman year of college, forcing me to medically withdraw from school. While receiving treatment, I was unable to put much stress on my eyes, so I decided to start working out more to give myself a sense of purpose. I followed a workout plan and focused on healthy habits, and with that came compliments on losing weight. I wanted to chase this “good feeling” and the arbitrary forms of validation I received from others and even myself.

In controlling my body, I felt a false sense of control over my life that for so long felt nonexistent. Ironically, the smaller my body became, the less control I had and the more self-loathing I felt. I started severely restricting my food and working out compulsively, and the compliments I first received when losing weight turned into concerns. While I eventually went into remission from my autoimmune disease and was able to go back to school, my anorexia became so severe that I was forced to medically withdraw from college three separate times. I spent many years extremely malnourished, leading to multiple hospitalizations and residential/inpatient treatment centers for months at a time. The constant cycle of treatment, quasi-recovery, and relapse felt all too familiar and daunting. I did not want to be alive anymore, because the physical and mental pain of constantly feeling inadequate and self-critical was too much to bear.

The therapeutic benefits I received from cannabis not only drove me towards health, but I began to feel impassioned about helping others gain access to cannabis to change their own lives.

While it took me almost eight years to become healthy, and I owe much of that to my support systems and the mental health professionals who never gave up on me, cannabis was a crucial component of my recovery. When I realized the therapeutic properties of cannabis, my outlook on food changed. I used to struggle so much with eating because my constant anxiety and depression prevented me from having an appetite. My hunger cues were non-existent, but when I started using cannabis before meals, not only did my hunger return, but I started to feel excited about food. In addition to cannabis helping my appetite, it curbed my compulsive exercise tendencies, something that was almost impossible for me to control. When I felt this compulsive urge to exercise, cannabis would help me choose something more relaxing, like listening to music or reading a book. I was able to reframe my urges into healthier habits that were less taxing on my body and mind.

Cannabis, in conjunction with traditional therapies, saved my life. The therapeutic benefits I received not only drove me towards health, but I began to feel impassioned about helping others gain access to cannabis to change their own lives. My experience pushed me into an industry I am so proud to be part of—I currently work at a medical cannabis clinic and am months away from graduating with my Master of Science in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics at The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, with the goal of helping to create sound cannabis policy based on scientific research.

While there are studies on cannabis’ benefits for anorexia as a symptom, there is limited data on how cannabis can help treat Anorexia Nervosa illness, but that may be changing. One study out of Israel looked at how THC impacts psychological symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa, showing that “significant improvements were found in self-reported body care, sense of ineffectiveness, asceticism, and depression.” 1 While body mass index did not improve significantly, the mental benefits of cannabis were evident. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is also conducting a study on how CBD impacts anxiety surrounding mealtimes for those with Anorexia Nervosa. It is my hope that more research goes into how cannabis can be therapeutic to those dealing with eating disorders, and my personal experience compels me to believe that many struggling could benefit greatly.

Author: Darcey Paulding McCready is currently enrolled in the Master of Science Medical Cannabis and Therapeutics at The University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.

Editor’s Note: This patient story has been written and submitted by a cannabis patient. CannabizMD is released from any and all claims as to its content and is not responsible for any medical and/or clinical use claims.

1. Resource:

Avraham, Y., Latzer, Y., Hasid, D., & Berry, E. M. (2017). The Impact of Δ9-THC on the Psychological Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa: A Pilot Study. Israel Journal of Psychiatry & Related Sciences, 54(3), 44–51
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