We are all familiar with the stereotypical cannabis user becoming insatiably hungry in the minutes and hours following consumption. While it makes for funny plot lines on TV and in film, what we affectionately call “the munchies” is a reality for many cannabis users. It sort of comes with the territory.
Interestingly, not all Medical Cannabis users experience the munchies. And among those who do, the sensation can vary in intensity. One patient can be incredibly hungry while another is just mildly hungry. So what’s going on? The current data suggests there might be two things going on.
Experienced Medical Cannabis users know that THC and CBD affect the body by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. They also know that the human endocannabinoid system plays a role in regulating dozens of physiological functions, including hunger.
In terms of the munchies, what’s going on inside your body could be nothing more than a reaction to THC. In other words, THC is binding to some of the receptors that regulate your appetite. They are also stimulating those receptors. This makes you hungry — even if you were not prior to consuming.
Another possibility is that the THC in your Medical Cannabis is stimulating production of a hormone known as ghrelin. This particular hormone is produced by the enteroendocrine cells in your gastrointestinal tract. It is believed that THC can stimulate those cells to produce more ghrelin. More ghrelin means more sensations of hunger.
A third possibility is that both reactions are occurring simultaneously. Again, people react to cannabis differently. It is hard to say exactly what happens in every case. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Medical Cannabis patients exhibiting strong hunger pangs are actually experiencing both reactions.
If you are thinking that delivery method could contribute, you’re on the right track. One delivery method might not produce a more intense hunger than another, but the speed at which you start to feel hungry can definitely be affected.
When you vape, dry heat, or use a cannabis tincture, you’re getting THC into your system nearly instantly. You begin feeling the effects within minutes. It stands to reason then that you would start feeling the munchies sooner as well.
On the other hand, it can take an hour or more for an edible product to change the way you feel. It takes longer for edible THC to make it into your blood stream and brain. So if it takes an hour or two, the munchies would probably be delayed that long as well.
Since delivery methods do impact the amount of THC that actually gets into your bloodstream, it is conceivable that you experience less intense hunger pangs with an edible as opposed to a vape or tincture. But that’s just speculation.
The munchies are a very real side effect some cannabis users experience. Let us set your mind at ease by saying that it’s nothing to worry about. It is perfectly fine to satisfy your hunger in the moment. And no, there is no evidence to date suggesting that satisfying the munchies means you’ll gain weight.
There seems to be a mechanism in play that helps your body more quickly burn calories while you are experiencing the munchies. Hopefully, future research will help us understand whether this mechanism is real and, if so, how it prevents weight gain.
At any rate, now you know why you sometimes get the munchies after using cannabis. It is a normal and natural reaction to THC.