Starvation or addiction?

Previous post on the topic of genetic differences in the cannabinoid system: Is it Addiction or Starvation?. Excerpt:

Substance abusers likely quit using and relapsed again more times than anyone cares to count. every single time a chronic user runs out of their substance of choice they are “quitting” until they get more. 

Do you blame a hungry person for eating breakfast in the morning? Should a person just “quit eating” if they have an overeating disorder? Answer: No. 

  • Cannabinoids might help some types of eating disorders and some types of drug or alcohol addictions by providing an essential nutrient that the person might not be able to make. 
  • If the body can’t make an important substance or convert substances into active forms then it becomes an essential nutrient – essential for that specific person’s daily diet.


The problem with addiction to some substances or to eating excess food for some cases of over eating disorders is an underlying inability to make the cannabinoids but a remaining need for them and a hunger, an urge for “something,” something that is unknown however. And what people choose to consume in order to try to quench that unknown hunger varies from food and alcohol, to the rest of the drugs that are commonly abused. 

Dietary sources are needed instead. However our food supply has limited sources. Vine ripened produce or lemon oil, rich in aroma, are examples of a food containing cannabinoids or a similar group of aromatic and medicinal phytochemicals called terpenes. Chocolate and the herb rosemary are two other food sources. The spices cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg are also sources. Non-euphoric cannabinoids also exist and may have medicinal benefits depending on the patient’s condition. Copaiba oil is a food grade essential oil that can have non-euphoric cannabinoid content with medicinal benefits.

Wouldn’t it be nicer to tell starving people that they are starving rather than that they are poorly motivated? 

~~~ end of excerpt.

Wouldn’t it be nicer to hand starving people safe foods or supplements of what they need? before chronic degenerative changes occur that can’t be reversed, such as nerve paralysis?

Worse things are also said about people who use marijuana and criminal charges can occur. Reefer madness advertising and other media spread the image of marijuana being something of jazz nightclubs and black men who might be a danger to your women, along with the marijuana that would turn her wild. — It does decrease inhibition and increase sensation so the risks are greater for making reckless mistakes. Caution. Also caution about believing media distortion – it might be for political or corporate profit goals.

The marijuana culture tends to be a sharing one – people who are regular users may relate to each other through a common understanding of the body and mood relief that can occur when you really can’t make your own cannabinoids.

Mental health awareness – we are all more susceptible to reckless decisions/non-decisions, going along with other’s suggestions/ when we are overly hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. (12 step group slogan HALT).

Lessons learned the hard way can help other people avoid similar problems. Sharing strategies that have helped others can help recognize problem situations and pause a moment – HALT – and think twice about making any important decisions until better rested or calm and fed.

Sharing personal stories can help show the real world problems others have had to survive somehow.

I can make reckless mistakes just from being overly stressed, tired, hungry, or lonely. Emotionally vulnerable people are at risk, people with ADHD or on the autism spectrum, or have other social or mental skill deficits can be at risk of being taken advantage of. Survivors of child sex trauma or child abuse may be more at risk of revictimization – grooming behavior means the child is being slowly raised to think something is normal behavior and even enjoyable and a treat to look forward too. What might seem like a reckless mistake may be a combination of limited skills, lack of boundaries, and physical stressors.

Anxiety and stress or fear can be major factors in panicked decision making.

Cannabinoids affect mood as modulators – may increase appetite at low amounts and decrease appetite at large doses. The balance and amount can calm anxiety or PTSD, or an excess or imbalance might cause anxiety or paranoia. CAUTION, is reasonable, especially with the modern more concentrated strains and products.

The anxiety of cannabinoid deficiency can be quite severe, or withdrawal if the person gets withdrawal symptoms, can also be bad in an anxious jittery kind of way. Other users understand and will ‘catch you a buzz,’ knowing you or other people will share their relaxing herb with you on another day.

Reefer Madness was a movie made to instill a negative image in public opinion of the marijuana/cannabis plant. Hemp cannabis plants were also being grown and used extensively as a fiber source for making rope and paper. Paper industry ran newspaper articles and ads that added to the reefer madness narrative.

It certainly deserves some cautions and guidance, especially with the more potent modern medical strains of marijuana. Risks can include the increase in reckless behavior due to reduced inhibition (yes, cannabis was involved in the tattoo decision-making), also perception and memory can be affected. Some things may stand out vividly, important, larger than life, while other things may be a little distant and foggy, indistinct and the memories form similarly. Decision making is also impaired by slowness sometimes, something might be said and in the fogginess you let it go, but then as the words repeat in memory, you realize that you didn’t agree and might have said so if less foggy from marijuana.

Paranoia and anxiety can be mental symptoms of excess THC, and/or the imbalance of THC without the calming effects of CBD and terpenes like limonene and pinene. Real lemon or lime juice/oil or citrus peel products may help with an anxiety reaction as they are a good source of limonene.

Whole marijuana products can cause differing effects due to the different terpenes within the plant strain. Myrcene-sleepiness, pain relief; Limonene & pinene – calming, anti-anxiety.

Sleepiness is promoted by the myrcene content of some strains, it also is a terpene with medicinal effects.

Myrcene, better known as the active sedating principle of hops and lemon grass, is also found in basil, mangos, and its namesake, Myrcia sphaerocarpa, a medicinal shrub from Brazil traditionally used to treat diabetes, diarrhea, dysentery, and hypertension (Ulbricht, 2011). ” (Hartsal, et al.)

Excess THC can cause physical effects that might seem like a panic attack, but which will subside. Limonene, lemon or lime oil products, may help reduce the effects.

Physical symptoms of excess THC can include a racing heart rate which might add to a sense that there is a panic situation or something to fear, as a racing heart rate is also a part of the feeling of fear. Feeling quite cold may also be a symptom of excess THC. Hunger can occur at lower doses of THC along with the ‘munchies’ – eating way more than typical of something sweet or salty or an odd mix of foods. At higher doses of THC the opposite might occur, a lack of appetite and even nausea or vomiting.

Physical symptoms of THC can include increased libido – feeling frisky, relaxing inhibition, slowing reaction time, odd thinking leading to poor decisions – marijuana is a risk for date rape/bad experiences. It doesn’t affect the memory as significantly as a blackout drunk or ‘roofie’ type date rape drug, however it may leave incomplete or distorted memories where some things stand out and others are fuzzy impressions.

With reduced inhibitions and increased risk of impulsive behavior, caution is needed with when and where, and with who you are using medical marijuana products.

You need a safe place, and safe people around, when consuming medical marijuana in quantities that cause changes in perception. “Come on back to my place and share a bowl” – danger, going into someone’s private space may be taken as a yes for anything else that occurs, or if a yes had been said in the past it might be taken as a yes into the future. Sharing a bowl means sharing the marijuana induced reduction in inhibitions – safer to not enter private space, yet illegal substance to many people and not to be used in public view even with the legalization in some states. <shrug> Progress takes time, caution is reasonable, there can be some potential risks to avoid, including personal stupidity.

Blaming everything on use of marijuana is wrong though, personal vulnerabilities are a risk too, mentioned earlier. Hyperthyroidism is also associated with mania, grandiose thinking and reckless sexual activity, and divorce is common. I had stress, fear to a point near panic, and was placed on a new psychiatric medication at one of largest doses – all can affect decision making negatively.

Caution also though with thinking medical marijuana use is an addiction.

Type 1 diabetes patients have a need for insulin because they can’t make it for themselves – some marijuana patients genetically or due to age or other reasons can’t make endocannabinoids for themselves. Paralysis can be a long term risk of deficiency.

One of the modulating functions of cannabinoids is brain cell maintenance – support the continuing growth of frequently used cells and take away growth support for cells that aren’t being used regularly anymore (practice daily the things that you care about).

Cannabinoids form a singular family of plant-derived compounds (phytocannabinoids), endogenous signaling lipids (endocannabinoids), and synthetic derivatives with multiple biological effects and therapeutic applications in the central and peripheral nervous systems. One of these properties is the regulation of neuronal homeostasis and survival, which is the result of the combination of a myriad of effects addressed to preserve, rescue, repair, and/or replace neurons, and also glial cells against multiple insults that may potentially damage these cells.” (14)

Caution with use of marijuana – and caution thinking that it is just an addiction or the only factor in someone being vulnerable to sexual manipulation. I have made mistakes, change was needed though and the lessons I learned were needed. Dangerous things happened to me, and I am thankful that I learned more caution before worse things might have happened.

Hyperthyroidism and elevated histamine levels can also lead to mental health symptoms that include mania and increased impulsive behavior. There can be other causes too. People who seek out cannabinoids may find that it helps them to feel more stable. Cannabinoids can inhibit the mast cells which when over active can cause elevated histamine, cannabinoids can also cause a release of histamine. Balance of the different types are important. (2) Cancer tissue also can involve changes in metabolism and possibly histamine levels. (1) Cannabinoids can be helpful for preventing and treating cancer.

Cancer may involve an excess of histamine followed by too little histamine in later stages.

Cancer is frequently associated with weight loss and muscle breakdown, a condition called cancer cachexia. A team has hypothesized that histamine excess may involved in early taste, smell and sleep symptoms also seen with cancer, and a loss of appetite, anorexia, and later stages of severe tissue wasting might involve a drop in histamine. (1)

Aberrant histamine signaling not only triggers energy-consuming processes, but also anorexia. Moreover, since functions such as taste, smell, and sleep are governed by discrete structures of the brain, which are targeted by distinct histaminergic neuron populations even relatively minor symptoms of cachexia, such as sleep disturbances and taste and smell distortions, also might be ascribed to aberrant histamine signaling. In late stage cachexia, the sympathetic tone in skeletal muscle breaks down, which we hypothesize might be caused by a reduction in histamine signaling or by the interference of other cachexia related mechanisms. Histamine signaling thus might delineate distinct stages of cachexia progression, with the early phase marked by a PSNS-mediated increase in histamine signaling, increased sympathetic tone and symptomatic adipose tissue depletion, and the late phase characterized by reduced histamine signaling, decreased sympathetic tone and symptomatic muscle wasting.  ” (1)

Elevated histamine can have an excitatory effect, hyper-excitable to the point of mania or depression and even suicide – whatever the mood, it might be escalated to extremes as histamine normally has a modulating control. Cannabinoids can have an inhibiting, calming effect on the synaptic junctions between nerve cells and inhibit nerve signals, not just mast cells. “Due to their presynaptic/terminal location, cannabinoid receptors can inhibit synaptic transmission and have the potential to regulate neurogenic inflammation.” (3) Someone with mast cell overactivity and histamine excess might be wanting cannabinoids from marijuana because it helps calm them — it might also be helping prevent early stages of cancer cachexia too if histamine excess is a factor in that. Adequate histamine is protective against colorectal cancer. (4)

Histamine and excess mast cells are also involved in pancreatic cancer.

Recent findings indicate that the activation of granulocytes and macrophages in pancreatitis results in the release of a number of cytokines and inflammatory mediators and an important inflammatory mediator, the mast cell, secretes histamine as well as other chemotactic molecules and inflammation activators (2931). Mast cells have been implicated in the pathogenesis of pain in other conditions and some have hypothesized that mast cells and histamine secretion play a role in the pain of chronic pancreatitis, which is characterized by mononuclear inflammatory cell infiltration (27,3234). Interestingly, it has been shown that humans with painful chronic pancreatitis have an increased number of pancreatic mast cells compared to those with painless chronic pancreatitis (27).” (5)

Histamine is a vasodilator, increasing membrane permeability in the brain and other organs of the body.

Histamine also increases vascular permeability in pancreatic inflammation, suggesting it would also affect brain membrane permeability.

As histamine has been confirmed to be a potent vasodilator, histamine may possibly be an important factor to study in increased vascular permeability in pancreatic inflammation (28,38).” (5)

Yes, histamine does increase permeability of the blood brain barrier: “Histamine is one of the few central nervous system neurotransmitters found to cause consistent blood-brain barrier opening.” (6)

Cannabinoids could be helping inhibit mast cell activation, reducing histamine levels, which would decrease blood brain barrier permeability protecting against entry of more inflammatory chemicals.

Nutrients work as a team – niacin also is important for reducing vascular inflammation.

Niacin or nicotinic acid is involved in energy production within mitochondria and can help reduce inflammation by turning it into the heat of a skin flushing reaction that is similar to the reddening warmth of an allergy reaction – both involve mast cells and histamine. Plentiful supplies of niacin help the body transform the inflammatory oxidative stress chemicals into more benign forms. Niacin also helps down regulate the production of inflammatory chemicals formed via the Nf-Kb pathway. (7)

Niacin is involved in our ability to burn lipids for warmth or energy in the brown or white adipose tissue (BAT & WAT), (8), mentioned in the cancer cachexia hypothesis as possibly being overactive, adding to unwanted weight loss, and due to an increase in histamine levels. (1)

Activation of the receptor for niacin causes a decrease in breakdown of triglycerides to free fatty acids, which would lead to lower blood lipid levels: “…the orphan G protein-coupled receptor GPR109A has been identified to be a receptor for niacin.” […] “Activation of GPR109A upon binding niacin functions in a G protein-coupled manner to decrease cAMP production, resulting in decreased hormone-sensitive lipase activity and reduced hydrolysis of triglycerides to free fatty acids (11., 12., 13.).” (10)

The warmth of the skin flushing reaction of niacin involves the niacin receptor and the release of chemicals, prostaglandin D2 and E2. “Recent studies have indicated that niacin-induced flushing was mediated by GPR109A through the release of prostaglandin D2 and prostaglandin E2 (1415).” (10) Prostaglandins are made from arachidonic acid which can be part of cannabinoid molecules. It is released from the phospholipid end when the cannabinoid is released from the membrane. Elevated levels of arachidonic acid being present can suggest cannabinoid breakdown is also elevated.

“Prostaglandins and thromboxane A2 (TXA2), collectively termed prostanoids, are formed when arachidonic acid (AA), a 20-carbon unsaturated fatty acid, is released from the plasma membrane by phospholipases (PLAs) and metabolized by the sequential actions of prostaglandin G/H synthase, or cyclooxygenase (COX), and respective synthases.” (13)

The niacin receptor, GPR109A, is regulated by G-protein-coupled receptor kinase 2, (GRK2), Gi, and Arrestin3. (10) Cannabinoid receptors are also G-protein coupled receptors.

  • GRK2 also regulates Type 2 Cannabinoid receptors. (11)
  • The arrestin proteins regulate light receiving rhodopsin, a G-protein coupled receptor and may also activate cannabinoid receptors, more needs to be learned. Cancer cell types frequently have increased cannabinoid receptors, yet providing cannabinoids can help treat cancer. (12)
  • Gi are a group of G protein alpha subunits; G proteins are guanine nucleotide-binding proteins which can act as a activating switch inside of cell for other functions, that can be activated from an external receptor, such as niacin activating the G-protein-coupled receptor GPR109A; or anandamide/THC and 2-AG/CBD activating the Cannabinoid Receptors Type 1 or 2; or a photon of light activating a rhodopsin protein.

The body is a complex team of chemicals that somehow work together in a way that allows most of us to walk and talk and function – stopping cancer and fighting virus is part of that daily function.

Lack of niacin may increase risk of cancer as it leads to depletion of NAD+ and dysfunction of the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy by oxidation of glucose. (9) Mitochondria switch to producing energy by fermenting glucose or glutamate without oxygen – a change that is associated with the mitochondria in cancer cells.

Adequate niacin and cannabinoids in balance and magnesium are all involved in the phagocytosis of infected or cancerous cells or other toxic cellular debris or proteins. The nutrients are reused by the cell or detoxified and eventually excreted in a process called by a few names, autophagy and apoptosis, lysosomal engulfment of cellular debris, or phagocytosis – engulfment of a smaller cell.

Is the desire for or use of marijuana an addiction or starvation? It seems to fall into the category of conditionally essential nutrients – essential for health for some conditions – those who can’t make them internally. It might also refer to nutrients that we can make but which we need in such large amounts that some must be obtained from the diet – such as nucleotides.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Reference List

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  3. McKenna M, McDougall JJ. Cannabinoid control of neurogenic inflammation. Br J Pharmacol. 2020; 177: 4386– 4399.
  4. Friend and foe: Histamine mediates allergies and can fight colorectal cancer. Dec 19, 2017,,
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