How cannabinoids can help to manage the body damaging behaviours
Published Feb, 2021
Cannabis has very quickly gone from a taboo drug choice to a proven, verified medicine that we now know can be more effective than or work in conjunction with more traditional pharmaceutical treatments. With each passing day, it seems we discover more new benefits to utilizing the endocannabinoid system, and we’re nowhere near done yet.
What are body damaging behaviours?
Somewhere around 5% of Americans struggle with body damaging behaviours or Body-focused repetitive behaviours (BFRBs), and in many cases, those impacted are born with the constant need to self soothe using techniques or behaviours that may cause them physical and mental harm. Most times, those affected don’t realize what they’re doing until it’s too late, and the damage is done. Some of the most common types of BFRBs include:
- Cheek biting
- Nail-biting or picking
- Skin picking or scratching
- Hair pulling or chewing
- Knuckle cracking
- Teeth grinding
These as well as many other BFRBs, are believed to be underlying disorders that are directly related to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but what causes them exactly is still very much a mystery to modern scientists and healthcare professionals.
The role of genetics
One article published back in 2014 looked at several families and twin specific studies where they claimed to discover a connection between the development of OCD related disorders and genetics, suggesting that these issues could be inherited and passed down over the generations. On the other hand, some look to another survey which estimated a mere 32% inheritability.
Patients who suffer from BFRBs report a wide variety of inflictions, many of which can be painful and nearly impossible to treat without completely stopping the behaviour. Stress and anxiety, however, appear to play an important role in the severity of repetitive behaviours, which is why doctors and specialists will often treat those two triggers using pharmaceutical medicines that can relax and sometimes sedate.
How cannabis can help
One cannabis researcher, Dr. Mechtler, believes that an endocannabinoid deficiency could, at least in part, be the cause of BFRBs, citing the endocannabinoid deficiency theory, which says that many medical conditions can be caused or triggered by low amounts of natural cannabinoids. If this theory is correct, then cannabinoids should be capable of regulating one’s endocannabinoid system, which should reduce or entirely eliminate symptoms of these types of medical conditions.
Dronabinol, a synthetic THC medication, has been tried and tested to measure its effectiveness at managing the symptoms of a vast number of medical conditions, and it’s provided some of the limited evidence that we have today, which seems to suggest that it can significantly reduce the severity of symptoms that are associated with BFRBs.
The results of this research could confirm the endocannabinoid deficiency theory, as those who received a dose of the artificial cannabinoid were able to achieve a new and never before experienced level of relief. All 14 participants were diagnosed with compulsive hair pulling, and each was provided with doses between 2.5-15mg of synthetic THC over the course of 12 weeks. By the end of the study, 9 of the 14 women reported a significant reduction in their symptoms.
Is it a solution for everyone?
Relying on the endocannabinoid system to completely eradicate symptoms of BFRBs might not be the best choice for everyone, as some of those who have tried it garnered little to no relief from the treatment. Still, it could be a life-changing alternative for an average of 9 out of every 12 sufferers who try it, and if that math adds up to relief, then it’s certainly worth a shot, even for the most hesitant patients who have little to no experience with cannabis.
On the other hand, there are side effects that may or may not be worth the results, and those may include impairment or an increase in feelings like anxiety which could potentially make symptoms for BFRB sufferers worse instead of better.
Each situation is unique, so while it’s important to recognize the benefits of cannabinoids and how they might help millions of people around the globe who are seeking relief, it’s just as essential for consumers to understand and weigh the potential risks before making the decision to try cannabinoids either with or as a replacement for other more traditionally prescribed alternatives.