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Munchies Madness: Unraveling The Science Behind Cannabis-Induced Desire To Eat


If you’ve experienced intense food cravings after smoking weed, you’re not alone. The familiar phenomenon known as the munchies happens to be one of the most intriguing effects of marijuana consumption. But what exactly causes this sudden urge to eat? Certainly not hunger say the scientists.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is responsible not only for the high but for increasing the appetite. This is due to THC’s interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a complex cell-signaling system in the brain and body that interacts with other body systems and regulates emotions, sleep, pain and hunger. Even if you don’t consume cannabis, the ECS is active in your body.

Scientists Weigh In

Roger Cone from the University of Michigan explains that THC activates the CB1 receptor in the brain and gut, increasing the desire to eat, even when not hungry. 

“THC binds to and activates a receptor in the brain and [gut] called CB1R,” says Cone per a New Science report. When activated, this receptor causes a spike in the desire to eat. “The end result is stimulation of food intake.” 


The enhanced sensory perception of food under cannabis’s influence might also play a role. According to a 2014 study on mice, neuroscientists discovered that THC connects with receptors in the brain’s olfactory center, enhancing the user’s ability to smell food. Sense of smell and taste are closely linked, so when the scent of food is enhanced, taste also becomes heightened. The natural outcome is increased appetite.

Richard Mattes from Purdue University notes that this urge to eat after consuming cannabis differs from actual hunger. “When people are high on marijuana they will say, ‘I know I’m not hungry, but I still want to eat. It’s eating in the absence of hunger.”

Increased Appetite Is Good For Some Conditions

Notably, regular cannabis users don’t necessarily have higher body weight than non-users. As such, cannabis-induced munchies can be beneficial for those undergoing treatments like chemotherapy or other medicines to help them combat food aversion and loss of appetite. Seniors are using marijuana more regularly for pain relief, better sleep, reducing anxiety and keeping their weight up

Photo: Adrienn on Pexels


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