Why yes, I think I will have another ice cream, cream cheese, and Nutella wrap with a side of Cheez Its! Nom nom nom.
What causes this insatiable hunger, exactly? What is it about smoking marijuana that makes you want to inhale an entire jar of peanut butter in one sitting?
BuzzFeed Life turned to some scientists for answers.
Fun little chemistry lesson: Marijuana contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Your body also naturally creates cannabinoids (called endocannabinoids in humans). These compounds are responsible, in part, for signaling to you that you are hungry or full.
“Endocannabinoids interact with receptors in your body to help regulate your metabolism, activate hunger, and indicate satiety, among other processes,” Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., a behavioral pharmacologist at Johns Hopkins, tells BuzzFeed Life.
The THC in marijuana stimulates your endocannabinoids, triggering the release of hormones that make you feel HUNGER feelings, even if you’re totally full. “Chemicals in marijuana, especially THC, activate this false sense of hunger when they interact with hormones like leptin, a main player in sending out hunger signals. Then you get the munchies,” says Vandrey. “If you hadn’t smoked, you probably wouldn’t have gotten hungry then or eaten as much food.”
PROBABLY NOT INDEED.
There’s a reason no one ever gets the munchies for kale salads.
Thanks to evolution, you’re probably going to crave high-fat and high-calorie food instead of the healthy options you optimistically keep stocked in the fridge. “It may just come down to adaptive mechanisms within our bodies. If your body thinks you’re starving, it wants to target high-impact food that will give you a big boost of energy,” says Vandrey.
Study authors tested the endocannabinoid systems of mice and realized they were linked to their senses of smell. “While we cannot say yet that exactly the same thing is happening in humans, or at least the same neurobiological mechanism, several pieces of evidence indicate that we are on the right path,” Edgar Soria-Gomez, Ph.D., lead author of the study, tells BuzzFeed Life. “Marijuana is a sensorial enhancer or amplifier. We smell more and we taste more. It could even have an effect on vision and hearing,” he says.
Basically, when you’re high and you catch a whiff of something good, your body tells you it’ll be an orgasm in your mouth.
Normally, when you’ve had enough food, your body and brain will send signals back and forth so you get the message to stop eating. Weed gets in the way of all that.
Tamas L. Horvath, Ph.D., a Professor of Comparative Medicine and Neurobiology at Yale University School of Medicine, contributed to recently published research that studied the effect of cannabis on mouse brain circuits. He and his co-authors found some ~interesting~ results. Namely: The brain circuits normally responsible for indicating fullness became hyper-activated… and began indicating hunger, instead.
“When you expose those circuits to cannabinoids, they switch from releasing a compound that suppresses hunger to one that increases appetite,” Horvath says. Scientists aren’t sure why, so count it as another one of life’s delicious mysteries.