According to a survey by the Public Health Agency of Canada, one and a half percent of Canadian women 15–24 years old report suffering from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. In addition, the National Eating Disorder Information Centre reports that men and children are also at risk of developing eating disorders. Anorexics are generally described as those who are more than 15% below normal body weight who have an unrealistic perception of their body shape and weight. Eating disorders are not only the most common form of psychological illness, but also result in the highest mortality rate (estimated at 5% to 20%).

The pervasiveness and life-threatening aspects of eating disorders has led some researchers to investigate what role of the endogenous endocannabinoid system may have in regulating brain activity related to eating. (The endocannabinoid system has been shown to control the amount of pleasure we derive from sensory experiences such as eating.) Increased appetite (the “munchies”) is a commonly reported side-effect of consuming cannabis. This has led to the investigation of a THC surrogate, Dronabinol, in the treatment of eating disorders. Supporting data has indicated that deficiencies in endocannabinoid function may be a contributing factor in eating disorders.

Medical Cannabis and Eating Disorders: Research

Controlled studies of the effects of medical cannabis on eating disorders are currently being published in peer-reviewed journals. A sample of this ongoing research is listed below.
[18F]MK-9470, a positron emission tomography (PET) tracer for in vivo human PET brain imaging of the cannabinoid-1 receptor
Dronabinol in severe, enduring anorexia nervosa: A randomized controlled trial
Do deficits in cannabinoids contribute to eating disorders?