Cannabis consumption has been legal in many states right now in the US and in particular, Illinois just gotten its recreational cannabis legalized. There are some side effects from consuming marijuana products, depending on its contents especially if it has high THC. THC is the psychoactive element in cannabis but it has health benefits. One of those side effects is having the munchies. Some would ignore this side effect and just move along, but some are curious why it happens.
To clarify, the term munchies is an irresistible urge to eat on something delicious. When you open a bag of chips, you find it more delicious that it did before and it would lead to more snacking. Until the urge is gone, it would go on for a while.
So why does munchies happen?
This is linked to how cannabis activates the endocannabinoid system, which is the internal body system that helps regulate basic functions like sleep, mood, memory, immune response, and hunger. It stimulates the hunger hormones, which multiplies how much we desire food in front of us.
Cannabis and THC in particular are able to stimulate one’s appetite by activating one of the two primary endocannabinoid receptors called CB1. This is the one that starts off the chain reaction of effects in the brain which can lead to hunger and increased eating of food.
Remember the hunger hormones? This is the one getting released, the ghrelin. It is a hormone that is usually secreted when the stomach is empty. When this is released, it starts the feeling of hunger, and then alerts the brain to scrounge for more food. There was an experiment with rats and it was discovered that THC-rich cannabis use led to ghrelin release even when the stomach was already full, which led to more feeding.
Getting the munchies can also happen via the enhancement of the sense of smell and taste. Researchers have noted in mice studies that when CB1 was stimulated, it increased the odor detection abilities of the subjects. The mice treated with cannabis had a temporary enhancement in their sense of smell. This also increased their feeding.
By consuming cannabis, humans get to enhance their perception of food and thus an increase of cravings. There are some studies that prove stimulating CB1 can make food taste better, making eating more enjoyable and food more palatable.
Munchies is sometimes part of the healing process for some patients that have certain conditions like HIV, cancer, or anorexia. Consuming cannabis can increase the appetite of these patients which in turn allows them to enjoy food more. These conditions after all induce lack of appetite, changes in body structure, and sometimes mental trauma.
With cannabis and its munchies side effect, patients can increase their food intake and weight gain in just a couple of days. These individuals with so much low weight will now have more body mass and can have healthier lives thanks to the substance. It should be mentioned that there are studies that reveal repeated dosing could just result in a tolerance to these effects.