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PHOTO: Goldilock Photography
At least 24 million Americans of all ages and genders are currently suffering from an eating disorder, and research shows that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness. In light of these statistics, it amazes me that eating disorders are often still not considered a “qualifying condition” under state medical marijuana laws.
The human experience is diverse and it seems unfair that some conditions qualify and some don’t. Do we have to wait until people are on their death beds before they can validate their marijuana usage? What about preventative care that works to maintain health, instead of policy that forces patients to treat illnesses that have developed and progressed due to lack of care?
Studies have shown that the cannabinoid Delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) naturally stimulates appetite. Using marijuana to treat eating disorders could be very useful in encouraging voluntary eating and weight gain. Although eating disorders are very complicated and cannot be wholly cured by marijuana alone, getting people to eat of their own will is crucial to the success of overcoming eating disorders.
As only about 10-15% of Americans with eating disorders are men, this problem disproportionately affects women’s access to care options that can help us reach optimal health. Some advocates speculate that women with eating disorders aren’t seen as worthy of medical marijuana qualification due to the stigma of eating disorders not being taken seriously. As rates in men steadily climb, they will also feel the unnecessary sting of marijuana prohibition that stops them from seeking marijuana as a legitimate tool of recovery.
Dealing with an eating disorder is an uphill battle in itself, and there is no need to ignore patient dignity in the healing process. The practice of force-feeding women and men against their own will as a form of treatment is an inhumane and archaic way of going about treating patients, yet it remains a standard treatment protocol. Obviously, medical professionals need more information and education about how marijuana can help those suffering from eating disorders. But what isn’t fair is that doctors and other treatment facilities act as gatekeepers and withhold marijuana as a legitimate option from those battling these conditions. Access to medicinal marijuana for those suffering from eating disorders should be a vital and legitimate option.
I speak from experience: No, I haven’t been diagnosed by a physician with an eating disorder, and no, I haven’t been formally admitted into a treatment program. However, dealing with the unrealistic body standards women are strictly held to has taken its toll on me. Marijuana allows me to relax and stimulates hunger to help me eat and take care of myself.
I understand that using marijuana to treat eating disorders isn’t and won’t be an appropriate treatment for every person diagnosed with an eating disorder. However, as a woman who has struggled with poor eating habits and body image, marijuana pretty much saved my life, preventively speaking.
People deserve to be fully informed about medical marijuana as a potentially successful avenue for recovery. Perhaps if they knew that there was a safe, natural treatment available for eating disorders, they would be more willing to seek medical attention.
Advocates need to lobby for inclusion of eating disorders as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana access. If we can provide healthy treatment options for those 24 million people diagnosed with an eating disorder – which doesn’t even take into account how under-reported most eating disorders really are – we can make a real difference.