Aight, it’s been a minute since I’ve had the munchies, but who am I kidding – they always come back when that dank bud starts making its rounds. Have you ever smoked up and then all of a sudden got struck with a need to chow down on anything and everything in sight?
That’s what we call the “munchies,” an inevitable side effect of seshin’ out with cannabis indulgence. It’s no secret why this happens: When you smoke weed, your brain chemistry gets shifted around like nobody’s business. That’s some biology and science sh*t right there, so let me break it down for y’all.
First off, there’s tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is known as the psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives you that signature high feeling. But not only does THC get you lifted; it also messes with two areas of your brain which control appetite and pleasure responses. So basically, THC alters how your brain perceives food – consequently inducing hunger even if your stomach isn’t actually rumblin’.
So normally, when our bodies need energy, our GI tract releases a hormone called ghrelin. This hormone stimulates the brain’s hypothalamus and makes us feel hungry. It also triggers the release of dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter.
But when we got too much energy in our system, our fat cells release leptin, which also stimulates the hypothalamus but inhibits hunger. Leptin also counteracts anandamide – the “bliss molecule” – which binds to the same receptors as THC (that’s the stuff in weed that gets you high).
So if your body produces less leptin, you gonna feel hungrier. And that’s why when you’re high, you feel like you starving.
The THC in weed tricks your brain into thinking you desperate for food. In a 2014 study, researchers found that THC targets the olfactory bulbs in your brain and makes everything taste even better. Plus, a 2015 study at Yale School of Medicine showed that THC can make your brain think you hungry even if you full.
Weed also enhances your sense of smell, so food tastes even better than usual. And since your body thinks you starving, it looks for high-calorie foods to give you an energy boost. That’s why Harold and Kumar ended up at White Castle – they needed them calories!
The THC in weed attaches to your CB1 receptors and enhances the taste of sugar but not so much bitter or salty stuff. This explains why junk food loaded with sugar tastes like heaven when you high. And the CB1 receptor helps produce dopamine in a specific part of the hypothalamus.
That’s why weed is sometimes used to treat medical conditions where patients have lost their appetite. A 2011 study found that THC pills increased appetite and enjoyment of food in cancer patients suffering from wasting syndrome.
But not everyone gets the munchies when they smoke weed. If you got fewer cannabinoid receptors or endocannabinoids in your olfactory region, you less likely to feel hungry after smoking.
And just because you get the munchies don’t mean you gonna gain weight. Some studies show that regular weed users actually have lower body fat percentages than non-users.
So if you know you prone to munchies, stock up on some healthy snacks and maybe try some weed with higher CBD or THCV levels.
So next time someone asks ya why cannabis gives you the munchies, point ’em in my direction. After all, knowledge is power – so be sure to pass along the 411 about what goes on inside our brains when smoking doja. Trust me, once folks understand how cannabinoids affect their bodily functions, they won’t feel so guilty everytime they reach for another bag o’ chips after too many bong hits.