The past few years have seen an incredible number of states and countries relax their cannabis restrictions, which is certainly good news for the junk food industry. After all, smoking weed is synonymous with binge eating, yet despite all the research currently being conducted into the effects of cannabis, the phenomenon known as "the munchies" had until now gone largely unstudied.
However, an international collaboration of scientists has just published a new paper in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, revealing how marijuana produces the insatiable urge to stuff one’s face.
The researchers recruited around 750 participants, each of whom was examined using a tool called the Cannabinoid Eating Experience Questionnaire (CEEQ). The first part of the CEEQ asks participants to rate the accuracy of a series of statements related to the “hedonic aspects of eating”. In other words, it looks at how pleasurable the experience of eating becomes when stoned.
For instance, this section of the questionnaire contains statements like “food is more satisfying,” “the sensation of chewing and swallowing is enhanced,” and “foods that I wouldn’t normally eat become more appealing.”
The second part of the CEEQ deals with the “appetitive” aspects of eating, referring to the stimulation of appetite. Among the statements in this half of the survey are “I feel hungrier,” “if I see food I want to eat it,” and “no matter how much I eat, I don’t feel full.”
After crunching their numbers, the study authors conclude that getting high increases both the appetitive factors that cause people to start eating and the hedonic factors that cause people to carry on eating.
While the study doesn’t delve into the neurological or biological mechanisms behind these effects, the authors point to previous research that showed that stimulating the cannabinoid receptors in rodents causes them to seek out food more energetically, and even to gorge themselves when they are already full. This would appear to indicate that these receptors play a clear role in enhancing the appetitive aspects of eating.
Other studies have shown that stimulating these same receptors boosts the ability of mice to smell food, which suggests that the hedonic aspects of eating are also heightened by cannabis.
Interestingly, though, the team also discovered that this inflated desire for food becomes weaker as the frequency of cannabis use increases, suggesting that the more often someone gets stoned, the less likely they are to get the munchies. Unless, it seems, they are a mouse.