Why Do You Get So Hungry When You're High?

This study was conducted on rats, but it still provides some valuable clues. Canna Obscura/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 18 Jul 2018, 17:33

Cannabis has a well-known range of side effects: a feeling of being chilled out, prone to giggling, more intense colors, time feeling like it slowed down and, of course, the famous “munchies”.

A new paper, presented at a recent Florida gathering of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior, takes an inventive look at the munchies. In a brand new animal study, yet to be peer-reviewed, they find out that the way cannabis exposure affects appetite is far more complex than many previously thought.

The researchers, from Washington State University (WSU), point out that despite the commonality of the hunger pangs people get post-puff, it’s not entirely clear why they occur.

“We all know cannabis use affects appetite, but until recently we've actually understood very little about how or why,” co-author Dr Jon Davis, a researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neurosciences at WSU, said in a statement. “By studying exposure to cannabis plant matter, the most widely consumed form, we’re finding genetic and physiological events in the body that allow cannabis to turn eating behavior on or off.”

In this case, Davis is referring to the administration of cannabis to lab rats through a bespoke vapor generation tool. This permitted the team to give very specific doses of the drug to rats’ dinners, which allowed them to match these up with certain types of behavior.

Yes, rats aren’t immediately comparable to humans, but they make for an adequate analogue in certain cases. As it so happens, even the briefest exposure to cannabis vapor provoked rats that had already eaten to seek out another meal – one that was smaller than the main course, so to speak.

This suggests that, much like humans, rats get the munchies too, but why?

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