The munchies are one of the most pleasant side effects of marijuana. Here are some explanations as to why that is.
While seasoned smokers find ways of ignoring the urge to inhale satisfying snacks after consuming weed, succumbing to it always leads to really delicious eating — whether you’re splurging on a five-course meal or simply rediscovering the nuances of a grilled cheese sandwich.
The munchies cause some stress for people who don’t want to gain weight, but they’re a great medicinal side effect, stimulating the appetite of people who have trouble eating for whatever reason. Despite the vast body of evidence that exists on the munchies, we don’t really understand why it happens. But there is some research that highlights some interesting connections.
A 2014 study conducted on mice found that THC activated a receptor in their brains that augmented their sense of smell, leading them to eat more than normal. All mice were exposed to banana and almond oils, spending a while sniffing them until they habituated to the smells. Mice who were exposed to THC didn’t habituate as fast, spending much more time sniffing the oils.
Maybe that also occurs in humans, whose sense of smell and taste is closely linked. Perhaps we love to eat while high because we can smell and taste things better, transforming common and every day foods into truly special experiences.
Other studies have found different connections between THC and hunger, with some showing that the drug has an effect on receptors in the brain that stimulate dopamine – the hormone associated with pleasure – whenever people eat while high. There’s also data that suggests that THC stimulates receptors in the hypothalamus, leading to the production of the hormone gherlin, which regulates hunger.
All of this evidence proves that THC’s effects on the body is complex, with a lot of moving parts that involve our hormones and cannabinoid receptors. Maybe it’s people’s augmented sense of smell, or the production of dopamine and gherlin, but we love to eat while high. It feels great.