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How I Lost 120 Pounds from Using Medical Marijuana to Treat My Anxiety

It was not a side effect I expected, or one I even wanted.

by Damian Abraham
Jun 22 2016, 1:44pm


The author before getting off his anxiety meds and onto medical marijuana. All photos via the author

A couple of months ago I wrote something about using cannabis to treat my anxiety. Since then I have received a lot feedback on what I wrote. Some people tell me that they relate to the story, others have questions about the process of switching from anti-anxiety drugs to weed, and there were a few that tell me what I wrote was irresponsible. But overwhelmingly, the most common thing people have responded to in the article has been the discussion of my weight loss since making the move to weed.

As mentioned in the article, since switching from my anti-anxiety pills to cannabis I have lost over 120 pounds. Before I go any further, I want to point out that this is NOT any sort of "how to" weight loss guide or anything like that bullshit. This is simply, in greater detail, how it happened for me.

I feel uncomfortable stating this as though it is an accomplishment, because the reality is I look at it largely as a side effect of my change in medications. At the time, I felt fine with the way I looked. I never felt that my weight impacted my health or quality of life other than the way it made other people feel.

Being a heavy kid, I quickly learned that many people in this world are fatphobic. There is really no other way to describe the irrational anger (which some disguise as "concern" for a strangers' health) many people express towards you when they view you as overweight. Peers, teachers, family, and generally everyone feels free to offer critiques on your appearance. Due to the cruelness of youth, by the time I was in my early 20s I was fairly hardened to such things and began to take a sense of pride in my size.

Around then I was put on anti-anxiety pills and would put on more weight. Weight gain is a very common side effect of anti-anxiety pills for many people. Some people claim increased appetites or feelings of hunger while on pills used to treat anxiety and depression. Not me.

It wasn't so much a hunger as it was a thirst: a thirst for soda. My whole life I had loved the sweet fizzy drinks but I kept it in some sort of moderation. However, once I started medication, moderation gave way to indulgence. While I was on anti-anxiety pills I would routinely crush two to four litres of cola a day. I fucking loved soda—to be more accurate, I needed soda. I would crush a two litre or two before the end of the day EVERY DAY. The average can of cola contains about 39 grams of sugar. So on average I was drinking, 2.3 kilograms of sugar a week in soda pop alone.

When the band I play in started gaining some awareness and people began writing about us in the media, such a big deal was made of my "immense" size that it became a full-on attribute. I relished in the attention.

It was during this period that music became my full time job and thus I would began touring on a fairly consistent basis. The effects of this were twofold: 1.) The inconsistent nature of life on the road exasperated my anxiety and I would routinely find myself melting down or freaking out. 2.) I would wind up eating fast food for every meal where there were ALWAYS endless free refills on sodas.

As I mentioned in the original article, all the touring eventually came to head and I wound up turning to cannabis as an alternative to anti-anxiety pills for a variety of reasons. But one thing that never held any influence over the decision was my weight or size. If anything, I bought in to the conventional wisdom that smoking weed made you gain weight because of the "munchies."

"But I can't stop eating when I smoke pot!" is the most common thing people say to me when I get to this part in my canna-journey story, and I would be lying if I didn't admit that cannabis can make me indulge in food, though it is now coming from a place of joy. I still love food, ESPECIALLY fucking junk food, but I now eat it out of a sense of pleasure rather than compulsion.


Damian post-treating his anxiety with medical marjiuana.

Do you think there is anything pleasurable about drinking the fifth litre of soda in a day? The first one is amazing (full disclosure, I still drink soda now and then), but there is a law of diminishing returns. Midway through the daily consumption cycle it stops being about fun and starts being something you have to do. And it was always around: every time I went to eat somewhere, backstage at the shows we played (you better believe as soon as I realized what a "rider" was I was demanding a case of Pepsi). I didn't even need to look for it, it came to me. Prior to this, when I had tried to cut back on soda, it was almost impossible because I would just always seem to find myself with a can in my hand.

Now, looking back on it I think it would be fair to call what I had an addiction. For sure I wasn't addicted in any sort of extreme way, but I needed cola or I couldn't function.

After medicating with cannabis, I found myself able to sit in the van on tour, relax, and not fixate on drinking a soda. Once I started smoking cannabis, I found less of a need to have a Coke or Pepsi in order to enjoy food. I could have one and enjoy it, or even go a day or two without one. Once I was free of that dependency I was able to make different choices about food than previously, which had, no joke, largely been informed by an establishment's policy on free refills.

I feel the weight loss I experienced was a side effect of the relief from anxiety. I never set out to do it, it largely just started to happen. I know it even bums out a few people who like my band because they feel it betrays part of the band's ideology. As stated earlier, this isn't meant to be any sort of instructional guide because I have no idea why cannabis has had this effect on me. There are certainly those out there that are touting it as a weight loss miracle, but for me it has been more about gaining control of my mental health. Any weight loss is simply a side effect, but to go from taking a pill which had side effects including a loss in sex drive, change in sleep patterns, depleted energy levels and increased appetite all the way to my current state, I can't really complain.

For Damian Abraham on Twitter.

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