The Science Behind Marijuana Munchies

Three hits in and I am four slices deep in to my own personal 8-piece Domino’s pizza. Weed opens the floodgates to my appetite like no other. I guess that’s why it’s called a gateway drug, right? But, why is that?

For a while, researchers have been looking for an answer to this question. A team of neuroscientists at the Yale University School of Medicine recently discovered the secret ingredient in marijuana that turns us into “Hungry Hungry Hippos.” I’m about to get real Bill Nye the Science Guy on you guys—are you ready?

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According to the researchers, these uncontrollable urges to pig out are caused by marijuana’s effect on your hypothalamus. A cluster of neurons located there, called POMC neurons, release chemical signals that tell you to stop eating.

In a previous study on mice, the neuroscientists found that the rodents ate until they became morbidly obese once the POMC levels in their hypothalamus shut off. So to their understanding, the drug in marijuana, cannabinoids, binds to these neurons and suppresses their activity.

Cannabinoids turn off the cells that tell POMC to slow down, while simultaneously activating receptors within the neurons that produce endorphins, which increases your appetite.

Marijuana also ignites our voracious appetites with the active ingredient Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. According to an infographic produced by the team at Term Life Insurance, THC inhibits the cannabinoid receptor CB1, which signals the appetite-suppressing hormone, Leptin. When CB1 is blocked, Leptin will not be activated.

This explains our inevitable and uncontrollable urge to binge on Slider’s after each and ever smoking sesh—even if you ate before passing the J. Don’t let that deter you though! This 4/20, have your very own weed-induced Thanksgiving feast in honor of the herb that always keeps us hungry. Cheers!


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