Recently I introduced a friend to weed for her first time. She couldn’t tell if she was high for about the first hour and was skeptical when I told her she was. But when she brought out about 4 bags of chips and a bunch of other snacks, it was undeniable, she had a classic case of the munchies.
Many are familiar with this common effect of smoking cannabis, and scientists have recently set out to explain why smoking weed makes people so hungry. Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine recently published a study where they attempted to identify the area of the brain responsible for weedist’s overwhelming desire to eat large quantities of food after smoking. (Just as a side note, not everyone gets the munchies while smoking and different strains can be more likely to make you feel hungry than others).
“By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating,” said Tamas Horvath, professor and director of the Yale Program in Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism and the study’s lead author.
“It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead. We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating, were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain’s central feeding system.”
Through monitoring the neural pathway that THC takes in lab rat’s brains, researchers were able to discover that the activation of a certain receptor in the brain, the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R), was responsible for cannabis causational eating. When the receptor is activated, your body receives signals to keep eating, even though you might have just had a full meal.
Also, can I point out just how cool it is that our brains have a receptor site specifically for weed? Researchers found that the THC fits into receptor sites on the olfactory bulb, increasing rat’s abilities to smell food. This led them to detect food more easily and consume more of it. This might sound familiar to weedists who’ve noticed their experience of consuming food while high heightened due to increased smell and tasting abilities. Researchers say more investigation is needed, but for now we have a pretty cool basic explanation of why we get the munchies.