Why Does Cannabis Make Us Hungry?

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Why does cannabis make us hungry? One of marijuana’s most common side effects, explained

We’ve all experienced it, that insatiable hunger that often follows cannabis use. The unsuppressable urge for “just a little bit more” that inevitably leads to “just a little bit more, again” and so on until the whole bag/tray/trough is empty. This phenomenon is popularly known as “the munchies,” and while that sounds silly, rest assured, it’s very much a real thing.

It’s long been noted as a side-effect, but our scientific understanding of the munchies is only a few years old. In 2014, a study published in Nature revealed where those false/amplified hunger signals were coming from, and why food smelled and tasted so damn good after using cannabis.

According to the study’s authors at Yale, the stomach’s urgency to eat everything in sight is actually a trick being played by the brain. Turns out THC fits perfectly into and activates the CB1 receptor in the brain’s olfactory lobe (HQ for the sense of smell) that in turn enhances smells and tastes and makes you want more and more.

“By observing how the appetite centre 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. It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead,” the study’s lead author, Tamas Horvath said in a press release.

The brain produces its own natural endocannabinoids when the body is actually hungry, and these normally set off the CB1 receptor, which then leads you into the kitchen to cook up a meal (or at the very least, open a bag of chips). But cannabis activates the exact same receptor, regardless of how much you just ate.

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