The Munchies: Why Does Marijuana Make You Hungry?

The Munchies: Why Does Marijuana Make You Hungry?

So you took a few, small hits of your favorite weed and now you’re ready to clear out the fridge. So you indulge in your cravings to satisfy hunger. But why does marijuana make you hungry? What causes the munchies?

What are the Munchies?

The munchies are one of the most common side effects of using cannabis. Users characterize it is a powerful and sudden increase in appetite after smoking cannabis. The main cannabinoid that triggers the munchies is THC when it binds to the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor) found in the brain’s appetite center.

This effect of cannabis actually has a lot of therapeutic uses. One study quoted that this effect may be able to help HIV/AIDS patients suffering from poor appetite and poor weight gain.

Another study also revealed that the appetite-stimulating effect of cannabis may be able to improve the sense of taste and smell of cancer patients. In this study, 21 cancer patients were randomly grouped into two. One group was given an oral THC capsule, while the other received placebo capsule. Those who took the THC oral capsule reported a significant improvement in their appreciation of food. They also reported that food tasted better.

Clearly, the munchies have therapeutic potential in improving the appetite of patients suffering from chronic medical diseases and illnesses.

Now, let’s try to answer the question, “Why does marijuana make you hungry?”

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Why Does Marijuana Make You Hungry?

CB 1 receptor's effect on weed and hunger
The CB 1 Receptor plays a crucial role in the stimulation of hunger (image via Leaf Science)

Understanding the question, why marijuana makes you hungry is actually fascinating.

The hypothalamus is the main appetite center of the brain. Inside your hypothalamus are neurons called pro-opiomelanocortin neurons or POMC. Originally, scientists thought that POMC neurons promote satiation. When you’re finally full, the mitochondria of your POMC neurons will secrete a special chemical that basically “switches off” your hunger.

However, scientists discovered that the PMOC neurons also release another chemical that actually promotes appetite. They also found that this release of chemicals is also activated by the stimulation of the CB1 receptor found in the POMC neuron.

Unsurprisingly, THC directly activates the CB1 receptor. When these receptors are stimulated, it increases appetite. You feel hungry even though you’re already full.

To see if the CB1 receptor does, indeed, play a role, the scientists administered a chemical that blocks this effect. They found that there was a cessation in the appetite-stimulating response.

This effect of THC finally answers the question of why does marijuana make you hungry and cause the munchies.

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Therapeutic Significance of Cannabinoid-Induced Feeding

nurses with AIDS ribbon, cannabis for aids
Marijuana’s potential as a stimulant of hunger has potential to aid cancer and AIDS patients (image via CannaMD)

This article does not just answer why does marijuana make you hungry, but it also highlights its clinical importance.

The effect of cannabis on appetite has a lot of therapeutic significance. For one, blocking the CB1 receptor can help patients in treating obesity. After all, its inhibition can suppress appetite. Two, stimulating this receptor can help patients with appetite problems. It can improve the appetite of patients dealing with cancer and HIV/AIDS.

We need more research on cannabis and appetite, especially if it’s for medicinal purposes. It might also be useful to find an approach that produces this effect without causing significant psychoactive effects for patients that don’t want to feel high.

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