The intense, unremitting feeling of hunger your experience after smoking marijuana. It’s maybe the most well-recognized phenomenon in stoner culture — yet few understand the chemical and biological processes that make it happen.
Has examined how marijuana affects metabolism and what access to pot does to fatness rates in legal states, but the munchies deserves a separate study, and we’ve checked out the analysis in an effort to tell our readers about why smoking marijuana makes you crave, well, everything in sight.
In massive part, the munchies are a product of THC, the most psychoactive element of marijuana. When you smoke, THC activates neurotransmitters in your brain called endocannabinoids, which regulate metabolism and activate hunger, among other things.
“Chemicals in marijuana, especially THC, activate this false sense of hunger when they interact with hormones like leptin, a main player in sending out hunger signals,” Ryan Vandrey, a behavioral pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins. “Then you get the munchies. If you hadn’t smoked, you probably wouldn’t have gotten hungry then or eaten as much food.”
WHY DO YOU FEEL HUNGER WHEN YOU’RE NOT ACTUALLY HUNGRY AFTER SMOKING?
But there are different processes involved in the munchies. A 2014 study revealed in the journal Nature Neurosicence found that THC operates on receptors in the brain’s olfactory bulb, which suggests that smoking causes increased sensitivity to smell and taste.
Unlike the sober lab mice enclosed in the study, people who were dosed with THC showed considerably larger interest in the bananas and almond oils that were placed before them. They continued to smell and eat the food for much longer than people who weren’t given the cannabis supplement.
Another set of scientists at Yale College of Medicine looked at however marijuana use affected a cluster of neurons they thought was responsible for making you feel full. This cluster is known as POMC neurons, which area unit located in the hypothalamus.
A previous study showed that shutting down POMC neurons caused the mice to become morbidly fat, and the scientists figured that cannabinoids in marijuana would bind the activity of those neurons and make them fire less. At it happened, the opposite was true.
“The team discovered that when they injected cannabinoids into mice, the drug was turning off adjacent cells that normally command the POMC neurons to slow down,” NPR reports. “As a result, the POMC neurons’ activity leapt up. At the same time, the cannabinoids activate a receptor inside the POMC neuron that causes the cell to switch from making a chemical signal telling the brain you’re full to making endorphins, a neurotransmitter that’s known to increase appetite.”
THUS, THE MICE GOT THE MUNCHIES.
There are limitations to every of the studies — namely that they involve research laboratory mice rather than a human subject. However all together, these studies provide a comprehensive overview of the processes that stimulate appetite. So next time you smoke, hopefully you’ll carry this info with you.