One of the most commonly felt side-effects of marijuana is something called the ‘munchies’: the feeling of an insatiable appetite after consuming marijuana. But where does this feeling come from? And how do you control it? We explain it in this article, combined with some examples where this appetite has medicinal benefits.
There is not that much known about how marijuana actually affects your appetite, but any experienced marijuana user can tell you that it does. With new studies scientists are slowly narrowing in on the mechanism responsible for this appetite, so as to better understand and use this effect for medical purposes. The most commonly supported hypothesis is that cannabis causes the brain to produce a set of chemicals that transform the feeling of fullness into a hunger that you can never fully satisfy. Interestingly enough it seems that the neurons responsible for this normally give off signals to stop eating when full, but under the influence of marijuana they instead tell your brain to keep eating. This is however not the full story: other studies have also shown that cannabis interacts with your taste buds to enhance the sweet taste in foods, which would explain the specific cravings for sugary foods that some experience. Studies of mice injected with THC (one of the active ingredients of cannabis) have also shown that they had an enhanced sense of smell and an overactive ‘reward’ system, which would explain why some find eating so gratifying when influenced by marijuana.
An increased appetite might not seem so sought after, but is actually one of the redeeming qualities of medical marijuana. It is the reason medical marijuana is often used in treatment of diseases that have an heavy effect on your body, such as cancer, which can be especially gruesome when combined with chemotherapy. Patients sufferings from these conditions often have chronic pain and struggle to keep their body weight from declining beyond dangerous levels. Medical marijuana can then be the solution: it helps in pain management and can increase your appetite. You should not think of the insatiable hunger streaks that some under the influence experience, but instead of a slightly increased appetite. This would allow the patient to keep consuming the required nutrients without resenting eating them, a common struggle for patients. Regular treatment would mean simply forcing yourself to keep eating or supplementing with tube feeding. This, combined with the pain treatment offered by medical marijuana, can offer significant relief for patients and is a prime example for the medical purposes of the appetite increasing qualities of medical marijuana.
Whilst reading this you might be worried that if you do need to consume medical marijuana for medical reasons, you might gain weight, and rightly so. At first sight the signs are not good: almost everyone experiences ‘munchies’ when using marijuana for the first time and it is likely that this will also be the case for you. However, repeated studies have shown that those who have used marijuana for prolonged periods of time have not gained weight significantly. It is not clear whether this is due to their bodies adapting to the marijuana or some other effect, but it does show that the weight gained by marijuana, when used responsibly, can be minimal. And if you are worried about these effects it might be worth considering a strain of cannabis that is low in THC. Even though THC is responsible for the ‘high’ that most people associate with marijuana, many of the medicinal properties of marijuana are linked to CBD, another ingredient of cannabis. Choosing a strain that is high in THC and low in CBD might have all the medicinal effects you want, while not affecting your appetite as much. And as always: consult your doctor before consuming medical marijuana and always use responsibly.