The ‘Munchies’ Phenomenon is Real, But It Can Easily Be Managed

If you’ve ever experimented with cannabis, you’ve likely experienced the “munchies,” a well-known phenomenon that can result in gluttony and regret if you surrender to the urge.

This correspondent can, with considerable chagrin, recount an incident in which she and an unindicted co-conspirator consumed an entire Marie Callender’s cheesecake while under the influence.

Fortunately, if you’re not using cannabis to gain weight, there are some common-sense precautions you can take to prevent your search for relaxation or relief from requiring you to buy a new plus-size wardrobe.

Cannabis appetite stimulant

Cannabis’ ability to stimulate the appetite is one of its better-documented effects, with doctors prescribing it for decades to cancer and AIDS patients to combat the nausea and weight loss that often accompany chemotherapy and other treatments.

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration – the very same branch of the U.S. government that has for decades classified marijuana as an illegal drug – in 1985 approved a pharmaceutical version of the active ingredient in cannabis, known as Marinol, to help patients eat and keep their strength up.

Science has slowly been catching up with the largely observational data that prompted the FDA to take that step.

Researchers now understand that the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in marijuana, essentially mimics natural chemical compounds produced by the body known as endocannabinoids.

Both human- and plant-produced cannabinoids act on a special type of receptors in the brain and elsewhere that play a role in a number of physiological processes, including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory.

Marijuana effects on appetite

As Dr. Gary L. Wenk explained in a 2010 article in Psychology Today, “The craving for food while smoking (or ingesting marijuana) is likely due to the stimulation of marijuana receptors in the feeding centers of our brain.”

Subsequent research has added evidence to support that theory.

A 2014 study of mice by European researchers published in Nature Neuroscience suggested that the munchie phenomenon is at least partly a result of cannabis sharpening the sense of smell.

As an article the Smithsonian Magazine describing the study put it, “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.”

Those discoveries may prove important as scientists delve deeper into the human endocannabinoid system, but what good does it do you if you’re trying to stop yourself from eating an extra-large combo pizza in one sitting?

How to Avoid the Munchies?

Here are a couple suggestions to help you keep a leash on your suddenly bear-sized appetite:

  • Stay active. The best way to fend off a food frenzy is to be doing something other than conducting an exhaustive inventory of the refrigerator. Go for a walk, fly a kite or challenge a friend to a game of Go. You’ll soon be absorbed by whatever activity you’ve chosen and won’t be listening to that gremlin in your stomach.
  • While cannabis cravings usually run toward sugar and carbs, healthy snacks also will taste wonderful to your newly appreciative taste buds. Be prepared and stock up, or you may come up with some Elvis-like bacon, M&Ms and peanut butter concoction that you will regret. Some personal favorites include fresh fruit or vegetables, nuts, savory rice crackers or, if I’m really wanting some mouth fireworks, dried cranberries.
  • If you know you’re not going to be able to resist your just desserts, explore the low-calorie offerings on the market. I’m a fan of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches, which run only 160 calories apiece and are delicious!
  • Some strains of marijuana may not induce the kind of feeding frenzy that led my friend and I to consume an entire cheesecake. Greenlight Approved can’t give you a sudden injection of willpower, but as a consumer education platform dedicated to “guiding the cannabis curious,” we can direct you to premium product and brand options as well as participating retailers near you. Visit us at

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