Eating Disorders and Cannabis

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Reviewed by Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS (SYR) provides helpful information for people who are dealing with substance use issues — and their family members, friends, and co-workers, too. SYR knows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges faced by those who misuse alcohol, prescription or illegal drugs, or other substances, and they aim to break through the clutter to help people at any stage of recovery.

You might know someone who uses cannabis without obvious health or life problems. But although cannabis use has recently become more socially acceptable and even legalized in some states, that doesn’t mean it’s always safe. And people with eating disorders may be at greater risk of cannabis use disorders.1

If you or a loved one is experiencing disordered eating and problems with cannabis use, know that help is available and treatment works.

What is Cannabis?

Also known as marijuana, pot, or weed, the drug cannabis is the flower and fruit of the cannabis plant.2 The cannabis plant contains many chemicals, including THC.2 THC can make you feel happy, relaxed, and exhilarated. It can also cause you to become really hungry, an experience known as “having the munchies.”3

People most often use cannabis by:

  • Smoking joints, blunts, or bongs (water pipes).
  • Using electronic vaping devices.
  • Consuming cannabis-infused foods and drinks like brownies, gummy candies, and teas.4
  • Smoking concentrated cannabis wax (also known as dabbing).

You might use cannabis occasionally and not feel any lingering effects. However, it can cause physical, social, and mental problems. If you’re a young person, cannabis use may actually hinder your brain’s development and affect your IQ.5 And if you use cannabis regularly or over a long period, you can become dependent and feel withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit.6

Stopping the use of cannabis can benefit your health. Dependence on cannabis can be treated with behavioral therapies commonly used in addiction treatment, and recovery is possible.7

Is it Safe to Vape Cannabis?

Some people believe that vaping cannabis is better than smoking it. However, vaporized cannabis liquids can be more potent and cause acute mental health issues, such as paranoia or psychosis.8,9 And some experts think vaping cannabis in high concentrations can increase the risk of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome. This condition involves stomach pain, severe dehydration, and long periods of intensive vomiting.9

Moreover, some of these devices heat up cannabis liquid processed with chemicals like those in e-cigarette products.8 These aerosols often contain harmful and potentially carcinogenic substances, such as fine particles, heavy metals, and organic compounds.10,11

Link Between Eating Disorders and Cannabis Use

Both eating disorders and cannabis misuse can be serious. Cannabis use may cause or worsen mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and thoughts of suicide.12,13

People with an eating disorder are significantly more likely than the general population to also have a substance use disorder, and vice versa.14 These disorders share common risk factors, such as:15,16,17,18

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Family history of these or other mental illnesses.
  • Low self-esteem or a susceptibility to social pressures.
  • Trauma and adverse life experiences.
  • Genetic predispositions.

Find Treatment and Start Your Recovery

Recovery from eating disorders and/or cannabis use disorders is a personal journey, and there’s no single solution that works for everyone.19 

Start by finding a trained health care professional to assess your physical and mental health needs. They then can work with you to create a recovery plan.20 Find treatment and support for eating disorders and substance misuse. 

Learn More


[1] Qeadan, F., English, K., Luke, A., & Egbert, J. (2023). Eating disorders and substance use: Examining associations among US college students. The International journal of eating disorders, 56(5), 956–968.

[2] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2019). Cannabis (marijuana) and cannabinoids: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

[3] Stromberg, J. (2014, February 9). A scientific explanation of how marijuana causes the munchies. Smithsonian Magazine.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September 9). What we know about marijuana.

[5] Albaugh, M. D., Ottino-Gonzalez, J., Sidwell, A., Lepage, C., Juliano, A., Owens, M. M., Chaarani, B., Spechler, P., Fontaine, N., Rioux, P., Lewis, L., Jeon, S., Evans, A., D’Souza, D., Radhakrishnan, R., Banaschewski, T., Bokde, A. L. W., Quinlan, E. B., Conrod, P., Desrivières, S., … IMAGEN Consortium (2021). Association of Cannabis Use During Adolescence With Neurodevelopment. JAMA psychiatry, 78(9), 1–11. Advance online publication.

[6] Hasin D. S. (2018). US Epidemiology of Cannabis Use and Associated Problems. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(1), 195–212.

[7] The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 13). Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders.

[8] Chadi, N., Minato, C., & Stanwick, R. (2020). Cannabis vaping: Understanding the health risks of a rapidly emerging trend. Paediatrics & child health, 25(Suppl 1), S16–S20.

[9] Pergolizzi, J. V., Jr, LeQuang, J. A., & Bisney, J. F. (2018). Cannabinoid Hyperemesis. Medical cannabis and cannabinoids, 1(2), 73–95.

[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023a, May 4). About electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). CDC.

[11] U.S Surgeon General. (2023). Know the risks: E-cigarettes & young people: U.S. surgeon general’s report. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

[12] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023). Know the risks of marijuana. SAMHSA.

[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 19). CDC. Marijuana and Public Health: Mental health.

[14] National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2021, April 12). Is nicotine addictive?. NIDA. Available at:

[15] National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. (2003). Food for thought: Substance abuse and eating disorders. Commonwealth Fund & National Institute on Drug Abuse. Available at:

[16] Eskander, N., Chakrapani, S., & Ghani, M. R. (2020). The Risk of Substance Use Among Adolescents and Adults With Eating Disorders. Cureus, 12(9), e10309.

[17] Ressler, A. (2008). Insatiable Hungers: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse. Social Work Today, (8) 4, 30. Available at:

[18] Munn-Chernoff, M. A., Grant, J. D., Agrawal, A., Sartor, C. E., Werner, K. B., Bucholz, K. K., Madden, P. A., Heath, A. C., & Duncan, A. E. (2015). Genetic overlap between alcohol use disorder and bulimic behaviors in European American and African American women. Drug and alcohol dependence, 153, 335–340.

[19] Bahji, A., Mazhar, M. N., Hudson, C. C., Nadkarni, P., MacNeil, B. A., & Hawken, E. (2019). Prevalence of substance use disorder comorbidity among individuals with eating disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry research, 273, 58–66.

[20] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2011). Clients With Substance Use and Eating Disorders. SAMHSA Advisory, (10) 1. Available at: