Some cannabis users know to get all their favourite snacks and food (the “Munchies”) ready before a session. The onset of an almost insatiable appetite is not uncommon, and most are familiar with the concept of getting the munchies after consuming marijuana. Still, most don’t know why it happens.
Though it seems like one of life’s unsolved mysteries, a few scientific reasons can explain what causes the munchies.
Here are three factors that help explain why people feel an increase in appetite after consuming cannabis.
1. Your Sleep Affects Your Munchies
If you want to smoke but don’t want to deal with the urge to snack, research suggests you should ensure to be well-rested. Numerous studies attribute increased appetite to a poor sleep schedule.
A study in 2019 found that a lack of sleep can bring on the munchies the same way cannabis can. Scientifically explained, sleep restriction causes increased endocannabinoid levels in the blood, leading to hunger pangs – specifically for high-calorie foods.
“We found that sleep restriction induced qualitative changes in food intake, biasing choices toward energy-dense options, without altering total calorie intake,” the study states. The study also noted that when sleep-deprived, the brain is more sensitive to smells, similar to when under the influence of cannabis, and smelling food can spark an appetite.
In short, getting a good night’s rest could be the key to helping keep the munchies at bay after consuming cannabis.
2. THC heightens the senses
The cliche often used about cannabis that “it just makes everything better” is actually backed up with science!
In a 2014 study, neuroscientists discovered that THC stimulated the brain’s olfactory bulb in mice — the part of the brain responsible for recognizing odours — causing the mice to eat more than usual. There’s also data that suggests THC stimulates receptors in the hypothalamus and produces the hormone “ghrelin”, which is responsible for regulating hunger.
3. Marijuana reduces inhibitions
The main attraction of the “high” from THC is the release of dopamine in the brain. While the benefits of a dopamine release in humans are well-documented, a drawback is that it can lower one’s inhibitions.
Decreased inhibitions are typically associated with social settings and interactions, but they also significantly impact cravings. Lowering inhibitions means eating more foods that perhaps we wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.
After consuming marijuana, it can sometimes feel impossible to stop snacking and put the bag of chips away. This can be attributed to lowered inhibitions.
Because dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, once enough THC is consumed, it can be tough to police oneself, particularly when it comes to favourite foods.
So next time the “munchies” kick in for you or a friend, you’ll know why it’s happening, even if it can’t get rid of it just then.