One of the effects that is very well known to users of cannabis is the powerful increase in appetite many feel after smoking or ingesting the drug, called “the munchies.”
Patients who consume or smoke marijuana have long known it’s appetite stimulation properties. Likewise patients who take medical marijuana products often experience an increase in appetite as well. It’s an established side effect of cannabis. Up until know little was known as to how cannabis altered eating behaviors so why does this happen?
The Science behind the munchies
Researchers asked the same question, and found the answer starts deep in the brain’s circuitry. Marijuana’s main ingredient is THC when THC reaches the brain, it attaches to groups of cannabinoid receptors in the hypothalamus. This brain region controls many basic physiological functions like thirst, hunger, sleep, mood, and sex drive.
The neurotransmitter anandamide normally activates these receptors. When THC enters the brain, it imitates the brain circuit that is normally responsible for suppressing appetites, triggering high people to get a sudden rush of hunger. THC increases the release of dopamine a brain chemical that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Which is what helps increase the pleasure of eating.
Since these brain areas become disturbed, smokers under the influence of marijuana have a wide range of effects. These effects depend on the type of strain consumed, the dose amount and how they were consumed, (edible, smoked, vapes, buds, etc.) Low doses of marijuana (e.g. single cigarette) have very little effect if none for increased food intake. However higher doses (e.g, two or more cigarettes) increases food intake between meals rather than an increase in meal size.
Cannabis for Cancer & HIV
Patients suffering from certain cancers or HIV causing weight loss, are sometimes prescribed THC to stimulate appetite in an effort to promote weight gain. There are studies that have been done but many have shown contradictions to the marijuana weight gain explanation based on short and long-term cannabis use indicating appetite suppression and weight loss.
An interesting research report publish by the National Center for Biotechnology Information NCBI concludes.
“Marijuana is a clinically controversial substance, but one potential medical benefit may be weight gain. According to available studies, appetite stimulation as well as weight gain may occur in patients with physical debilitation due to HIV/AIDS and/or cancer. However, while weight gain may occur, it is not greater than currently available agents for inducing weight gain “
Do CBD products give the munchies
CBD dominant strains or products rarely have the same effects on increased appetite. The reason for that is that CBD does not bind directly to the cannabinoid receptor. CBD full extract products like oil are highly unlikely to give you the munchies. The amount of THC in many of these CBD products are very low, requiring very large doses in order to give you the munchies. There are of course hybrid strains that are neither THC or CBD dominant, these strains are likely to give you the munchies.
If you’re trying to cut back on your junk-food intake, prepare beforehand and have some healthy snack alternatives ready. For people who have trouble eating due to medical reasons the use of THC is possibly good news. With further research and testing science may eventually be able to help use munchies to help those who need it most.