What Is "the Munchies" & What Do We Know About It?

October 26, 2023

Have you ever experienced a craving for snacks after consuming cannabis? This infamous phenomenon is commonly referred to as "the munchies." But is there any science behind this curious occurrence? Maybe. While it's a widely recognized aspect of the cannabis experience for some cannabis enthusiasts, the specific causes and effects of the munchies are not entirely understood. This guide is designed to help unravel the mystery of the munchies, and gain insights into how cannabis may interact with our appetite via our endocannabinoid system.

What are the Munchies?

"The munchies" is a term familiar to many cannabis users and non-cannabis consumers, thanks to TV and movies. The munchies are the feeling of hunger someone might get during or after consuming cannabis. The thing is, it doesn’t always happen, and it may be dependent on the compounds contained in the strain you’re enjoying. 

What Do We Think Causes the Munchies?

Unraveling the causes of the munchies has been a subject of interest for researchers, especially recently. While the precise mechanisms are still under investigation, several factors are being studied as potential contributors to this phenomenon:

Cannabis Impacts the CB1 Receptor

One of the key factors that may be behind the munchies is the interaction between cannabis and the endocannabinoid system. More specifically, the endocannabinoid receptors found within the hypothalamus (a part of the brain). Cannabis contains compounds known as cannabinoids, including THC, which bind to the CB1 receptors, responsible for regulating appetite. When activated, this receptor can trigger an increase in hunger and the urge to eat.

Cannabis May Elevate Dopamine Levels

Another theory suggests that cannabis may lead to elevated levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. You know how you feel good when you have a great meal or laugh with a friend? You can thank dopamine for that. THC might also help to elevate dopamine, and this boost in dopamine can intensify the enjoyment of eating, making food even more appealing and potentially contributing to the munchies.

Cannabis May Increase Appetite Hormones

A third hypothesis is that cannabis can also affect appetite-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin, leptin, and peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), which play a crucial role in hunger and satiety. It is believed that THC, when it activates the CB1 receptors, may decrease PYY, and in turn, ghrelin increases. When your ghrelin goes up so too does your appetite. Alterations in these hormones due to cannabis consumption can result in an increased appetite and food cravings.

The challenge with all three theories is two-fold. First, everyone is different. Our endocannabinoid systems fluctuate and change based on our own bodies and environments, so it’s hard to nail down whether these changes occur in everyone or just some people. Second, there simply isn’t enough research to definitively say that THC will always give you the munchies. In fact, it’s possible it’s more than just the THC, which is a theory called the entourage effect. This theory purports that all compounds in cannabis, including THC, CBD, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, contribute to the things we feel when we consume cannabis. Much more research needs to be done before we can truly understand the reason some cannabis enthusiasts get the munchies.

Does Cannabis Cause Weight Gain?

One of the common concerns associated with the munchies is whether cannabis consumption leads to weight gain. The truth is, it’s possible. In fact, one of the reasons medical marijuana was first legalized in California was because of the AIDS epidemic and the wasting disease associated with it. Infused brownie edibles created by the infamous Brownie Mary helped many HIV and AIDS patients in California hospitals in the ‘80s and ‘90s. There is even an FDA-approved, synthetic THC called dronabinol that was created to help reduce nausea and vomiting caused by medications used to treat AIDS, HIV, and some cancers. 

That said, while the relationship between cannabis and weight is intricate, it's important to note that the munchies don't necessarily result in overeating or unhealthy choices. Responsible consumption and mindful eating can help mitigate any potential weight-related concerns if you’re worried about your waistline expanding.

Can You Stop the Munchies?

For some cannabis users, the munchies are a minor inconvenience, while for others, they may pose a more significant challenge. If you find the munchies bothersome, there are several strategies that can help:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Choose healthy snacks
  • Exercise portion control

Also, remember that there may be as many as 800 different strains on the market today. If you feel like one strain causes an effect you don’t particularly want, you can always try a different strain, particularly ones higher in CBD, to see if you feel different. 

Can CBD Cause the Munchies?

While THC is primarily associated with the munchies, it’s possible that CBD, another cannabinoid found in cannabis, may not have the same effect. This is because THC and CBD bind differently to the receptors in your endocannabinoid system. In some ways, CBD may even hinder THC’s ability to lock on to a receptor. Because of this, it’s possible that strains higher in CBD won’t stimulate appetite. We recommend giving different strains a try to see if a higher CBD strain keeps you from hitting the snack cabinet.

Cannabis and the Munchies

The relationship between cannabis and the munchies is a captivating aspect of the cannabis experience. While the exact mechanisms behind this phenomenon continue to be explored, understanding the potential causes of the munchies can help cannabis enthusiasts make informed choices when enjoying cannabis. Whether you embrace the munchies as a delightful side effect of cannabis or seek to manage them, knowledge is key to making the most of your cannabis journey.

Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

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