How Marijuana Stimulates Hunger

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine recently set out to study the “munchies” and the neurons that are responsible for the urge to snack after smoking marijuana. The research is vital to understand the cannabinoid receptor activation that drives hunger according to an article in Medical Daily. This is particularly important because in some hospitals during chemotherapy treatments, cancer patients have widely received the same medical strand of cannabis used in current research.

The cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) inside the brain is normally responsible for the ability to smell food. An article in The Smithsonian last year explained the affect marijuana’s active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has on a brain. It not only stimulates the appetite, but also increases the ability to smell, which then causes salivation and further increases hunger.

Lead author of the study published in Nature, Tamas Horvath, professor and director of the Yale Program in Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism, said:

“By observing how the appetite center of the brain responds to marijuana, we were able to see what drives the hunger brought about by cannabis and how that same mechanism that normally turns off feeding becomes a driver of eating. It’s like pressing a car’s brakes and accelerating instead. We were surprised to find that the neurons we thought were responsible for shutting down eating were suddenly being activated and promoting hunger, even when you are full. It fools the brain’s central feeding system.”

While medical marijuana definitely has shown promise for treating specific conditions, a lot of work remains to provide conclusive evidence of the benefits, safety and dosage that will be both safe and beneficial. Unfortunately, the continuing popularity along with the legalization of recreational use in some states may be misleading many people into believing that marijuana use is relatively risk-free. The risks are particularly high for the developing brains of adolescents and young adults. For long-term health, it is best to refrain from using any drugs.