Does Marijuana Give You the Munchies?

By Karen Berger, PharmD, Medical Writer

Does marijuana give you the munchies? What is the cause for this well-known phenomenon? Smithsonian magazine offers the science behind the munchies. European scientists discovered that THC fits into the olfactory receptors in the brain in mice, which led them to smell food better and eat more. “A big part of the reason why you might eat more food after using marijuana, the research indicates, is simply that you can smell and taste it more acutely,” the article states.

Because smell and taste are closely related, this effect makes people more sensitive to food smells, and taste food better. Previous research points to dopamine making you experience a feeling of pleasure when eating while high. Other research shows that THC leads to the release of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. 

All of these processes involve the brain’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The article indicates that mice without cannabinoid receptors in the olfactory lobe did not have an increase in hunger. “This indicates that both THC and natural cannabinoids that result from starvation are acting on the same neural pathway to allow us to smell and taste with greater sensitivity, and thus eat more. In other words, THC appears to give us the munchies by convincing our brains that we’re starving.”

So, how to curb the munchies? Courtesy of Leafly, try these tips: 

  • Stay on a regular meal and snack schedule 
  • Keep your brain busy (but do not drive while under the influence)
  • Frequently brush your teeth and rinse with mouthwash; the minty taste may help kill cravings 
  • Experiment with different strains to see if another strain makes you less prone to munch 
  • Get the junk food out of the house 
  • Keep your refrigerator and pantry stocked with healthy foods so you can quickly throw together a healthy meal or snack 
  • Find time to exercise 
  • Work with the cravings and incorporate healthy foods- craving sweets? Throw some kale into a smoothie 

Do you experience the munchies? 

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