why does marijuana give you the munchies
Chips, chicken wings, perhaps some White Castle? We already know that activating the cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) contributes to that uncontrollable urge to snack. And now, according to a new
published in Nature this week, the munchies are partly driven by neurons that, oddly enough, normally work to suppress your appetite. It s like pressing a car s brakes and accelerating instead, says in a. 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. Previous studies have found that a group of brain cells called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons play key roles in preventing you from overeating. Researchers suspect that the signals that promote feeding must result in a reduction of POMC neuronal activity -- turns out, it s not so clear cut. To monitor the brain circuitry that promotes eating, Horvath and an international team of researchers manipulated the pathway that mediates marijuana s actions on the brains of mice. Unexpectedly, the hunger-suppressing neurons showed enhanced activity during the mice s cannabinoid-induced feeding.
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. The feeding signals triggered by CB1R activation, they found, promote the activity of POMC neurons, causing them to release chemicals that are different than those that are normally produced to promote satiety, that feeling of being full. Feeding behavior driven by these neurons is just one mode of action that involves CB1R signaling, Horvath adds, and his team is looking into whether this mechanism is also the key to getting high. Understanding why we become hungry when we re comfortably satiated could also help researchers who are looking for a ways to suppress hungriness as well as to stimulate it -- for example in patients who lose their appetite during treatment. Whether you smoke, vape or eat it as a cookie, a well-documented side effect of marijuana use is increased hunger. Also known as "the munchies", the phenomenon is so common it has seeped its way from many a dark, smoky bedroom through to the big screen в inspiring scenes in everything from the films of Cheech and Chong to the Ted series starring Mark Wahlberg.
But despite the humorous depiction of the munchies on film, hunger can be a serious and powerful side effect of cannabis use. The term "munchies" is said to have been first noted in the famous study on 'being stoned' by Charles T Tart in 1971, in which the mental state of 150 marijuana users was observed. More recently though, research has focused on the neurological processes behind the munchies. Scientists believe the munchies effect is caused by the psychoactive component of cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and its interaction with cannabinoid receptors in the brain в mostly with a receptor known as CB1. Research from 2014 suggests that people eat more food after using weed because they smell and taste it more intensely. The study, found that THC fits into CB1 receptors in the brain's olfactory bulb. Tests conducted on mice showed that THC heightened the rodent's sense of smell, increased their hunger and gave them the munchies.
Director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, Professor Jan Copeland, explains that THC also stimulates the nucleus accumbens в a region low in the front of the brain в to release dopamine. And in 2015, that certain neurons at the base of the brain increased appetite when activated by THC. The research revealed that CB1 receptors flick a switch in the brain that induces this group of neurons to secrete a substance that makes the marijuana user hungry. "Using cannabis also stimulates the production of ghrelin в the 'hunger hormone', which increases your appetite," Professor Copeland said. Potential therapeutic benefits? Although the urge to eat more might be an undesired outcome of using cannabis, head of University of Western Australia's Pharmacology, Pharmacy and Anaesthesiology department Matthew Martin-Iverson, believes there are some benefits. "Marijuana is used as a treatment for people with cancer who are going through chemotherapy, not only to reduce their nausea but to stimulate their appetite in the short-term," Professor Martin-Iverson said. "This also helps them to get more calories and improves the flavour of food, which they might otherwise find distasteful if they are receiving treatment. " In an unusual twist, Professor Martin-Iverson said scientists were also exploring the use of cannabis as treatment for overeating. "Cannabis is also a potential gold mine for medicinal treatments of various disorders associated with eating.
For example, there's a lot of research now going on with cannabis because there is potential for using it as a treatment for obesity. " even linked marijuana use in young women to lower body mass indexes (BMIs). It is thought that could be the reason for this. While the munchies may be common among cannabis users, the truth is that not all users get hungry. Professor Copeland said this was because the side effect was dose-dependent. "Every boring stoner website talks about the munchies experience," she explained. "But a dedicated stoner would have left the munchies stage a long time ago. Heavy, regular users don't experience the munchies, but the munchies are quite commonly reported among recreational users. "
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