Even people who’ve never hit a single joint know about the munchies, and casual smokers will more than likely have a personal experience of it. Smoking weed has the potential to make you very, very hungry. But why is that?
The reason this can be so confusing is because the increased appetite seems to bear no reference to actual appetite. The fact that we feel hungry despite kind of knowing that we’re full means that there has to be a real chemical, scientific reason for the whole phenomenon.
So, let’s do it. Let’s talk science.
Basically, it all comes down to cannabinoids, a chemical compound that is found in weed. Interestingly given the name, they are also produced by the human body (these are called endocannabinoids), which are responsible for letting your brain know when you’re hungry or full.
First, let’s talk about endocannabinoids. The sweet, sweet THC that exists in weed interacts with them in a strong way, stimulating them enough to trigger feelings of hunger regardless of how many cheeseburgers or tubs of ice cream you’ve already gone through today.
That’s the first part of the explanation of how you can go from totally full to a literal black hole of hunger.
The next part has to do with the cannabinoids in the weed itself. The theory is that these external cannabinoids scramble the complex circuit of messages going back and forth between the brain and the rest of the body that communicate about hunger. Put simply, brain circuits freak out so much at the presence of cannabinoids that they start pumping out hunger messages instead of messages of hunger.
Stop to think about that. This is where it get’s kind of crazy; it seems that weed literally flip-reverses a particular brain function into doing the exact opposite thing. Or, to quote Tamas Horvath, a researcher at Yale who made this discovery: "It's like pressing a car's brakes and accelerating instead”.
There are other elements to this story that help to ensure marijuana’s role as an instigator of culinary mischief. Studies conducted on mice seem to suggest that THC “significantly” increased the animal’s ability to smell and taste food. That’s right; maybe you weren’t technically wrong last time you look a hit and told everyone in the room that the triple grilled cheese you’d made was the best thing you’d ever ate; the weed might have literally made it taste better.
So there you have it: a few real, scientific facts explaining why we get the munchies. No word yet on whether it’s all an elaborate joke the universe is playing, but we’ll keep you posted.