Table of Contents
Disclaimer: The post is for informational purposes only.
Cannabis, a plant that contains substances THC and CBD, which have been found to help treat or reduce symptoms associated with ARFID including nausea, low appetite and anxiety(1,2,3) . A survey was created to better understand cannabis use and potential benefits among those with diagnosed or suspected ARFID. The survey included a total of nine questions and we received a total of 67 respondents. All respondents identified as having ARFID and using cannabis to reduce ARFID symptoms or using cannabis for another reason but it also helped their ARFID. No information was collected from those with ARFID who have never used cannabis.
Here is a summary of results among respondents.
Length of use of cannabis for ARFID symptoms?
1-15 years (average: 4.6 years)
Do you have a medical card and is that due to ARFID?
51.6% of respondents do not have a medical card
9.8% have a card specifically for their ARFID
25.8% have a card for another chronic disease
12.8% live in a recreational state or unable to afford a card
Top 3 forms of cannabis being used:
Does your care team support you using cannabis?
57% of respondents note that there care team is aware of use and supportive,
20% noted their team didn’t know or did not support use,
remaining 40% were mixed answers
Do you worry that using cannabis affects your recovery or journey within ARFID?
50% responded no
50% responded yes or at times
What ARFID symptoms is cannabis being used for?
- Anxiety (eating, trying new foods, grocery shopping, eating with others)
- Decision making around what to eat
- Stomach pain/digestive problems
- Enjoyment/ taste
- Aversions to foods
- Sensory distress/overwhelm
- Low Interest/motivation to eat
Benefits of using cannabis as it relates to ARFID
- Increased number of safe foods
- Improved/reduced digestive symptoms related to eating
- Improved intake
- Increased variety
- Increased enjoyment from eating
- Improved taste of food
- Improved hunger cues
- Reduced sensory distress/aversions/sensory overwhelm
- Increased ability to eat out with others.
- Improved motivation/interest in preparing and eating
- May help with rational thinking around eating fears/behaviors
- Reduced negative emotions around eating behaviors.
When is cannabis being used the most?
Top 5 responses
- Before meals
- Before going out to eat or going to social gatherings where food is involved
- Before food exposures/ trying a new food
- Before going grocery shopping
- After meals
What respondents wish others better understood about cannabis and its use related to ARFID..
- Form of harm reduction
- Can make finding enjoyment out of eating accessible
- Doesn’t cure ARFID but can be one part of treatment/support
- Can improve quality of life
- Can make “normal” eating more accessible
In summary, cannabis is being used by some individuals with ARFID to decrease symptoms and improve intake, variety and enjoyment of eating and improved quality of life.
Cannabis itself can not cure ARFID but can be used in combination with other therapies for ARFID. We know that cannabis is not an accessible option for every individual due to cost, access and personal preference around use. Research is needed to conclude THC and CBD effectiveness in treating ARFID symptoms.
(1)Sharpe L, Sinclair J, Kramer A, de Manincor M, Sarris J. Cannabis, a cause for anxiety? A critical appraisal of the anxiogenic and anxiolytic properties. J Transl Med. 2020 Oct 2;18(1):374. doi: 10.1186/s12967-020-02518-2. PMID: 33008420; PMCID: PMC7531079.
(2)Stith, Sarah S. PhD*; Li, Xiaoxue PhD*; Orozco, Joaquin MS†; Lopez, Victoria BS‡; Brockelman, Franco BS§; Keeling, Keenan BS§; Hall, Branden§; Vigil, Jacob M. PhD†. The Effectiveness of Common Cannabis Products for Treatment of Nausea. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology 56(4):p 331-338, April 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001534
(3) Riggs PK, Vaida F, Rossi SS, Sorkin LS, Gouaux B, Grant I, Ellis RJ. A pilot study of the effects of cannabis on appetite hormones in HIV-infected adult men. Brain Res. 2012 Jan 11;1431:46-52. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2011.11.001. Epub 2011 Nov 7. PMID: 22133305; PMCID: PMC6200580.