This guest post was written by Evan Kaden in association with basassglass.com.
I suspect it is safe to say that anyone who has ever gotten high by smoking pot has experienced a case of the insatiable munchies! You know, that feeling of gnawing hunger in your belly that keeps on telling you that you are still hungry even after you have eaten everything you have laid eyes on! Even after the logical part of your brain tells you that you have eaten enough to feed a small army!
So, why is that smoking pot gives you the “munchies”? Well, apparently, it’s all your brain’s fault. More accurately, it is the fault of neurons in the brain called POMC’s that are present in the hypothalamus which is the part of the brain that controls hunger.
Consequently, when we smoke pot, one or more of the cannibinoids present in marijuana causes these neurons to become hyper stimulated and thus, our brain does not receive the signal from our stomach telling it that it’s full and time to stop eating.
A Study On a Couple of Stoned Mice
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Yale University using lab mice, the initial hypothesis was that the cannibinoids contained in marijuana inhibited the brain’s ability to receive the signal from the stomach informing it that it’s full. However, when researchers administered a chemical substance to the mice similar to the cannibinoids contained in cannabis, they discovered that the exact opposite is true!
In fact, instead of the PMOC’s in the mice’s brains being switched off, they were instead hyper stimulated. Thus, the researchers naturally assumed that they had somehow collected the data incorrectly but, upon further analyzing the data, they conclude that the correct procedure had been followed and thus, their findings were indeed valid.
So, what was actually going on inside of those tiny mouse brains?
Well, in an effort to find out, the researchers used a technique that enabled them to switch off the POMC’s in the mice’s brains. Then, they again injected the mice with the chemical marijuana and observed that the mice ate less.
But, when they then artificially boosted the action of the POMC’s in the same mice’s brains, they suddenly seemed to acquire a case of the “munchies” which caused them to eat much more than normal. Thus, researchers were then led to wonder how it can be that the same neurons that tell your brain that your stomach is full can instead tell it that you need to keep eating when exposed to cannibinoids?
Well, further study revealed that cannibinoids can actually alter the brain’s chemistry to the point where it alters the type of chemical the POMC neurons release.
For instance, when a mouse’s brain lacks cannibinoids (not stoned), its POMCs release a chemical called MSH which suppresses appetite. But when the same mouse is injected with chemical marijuana (stoned), its POMCs start to release the opioid beta-endorphin which induces hunger.
Consequently, when we smoke pot, it turns out that our brain chemistry is actually reversed and that is why smoking pot gives human stoners a case of the “munchies”!
Brain Altering Cannabinoids Found in Marijuana
In fact, according to a News and Views article that accompanied the study, researchers Sachin Patel and Roger D. Cone of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville wrote that the most interesting part of the study’s results is discovering that the cannibinoids contained in marijuana can actually alter a brain circuit from one that tells it that the stomach its full to one that tells it to keep eating.
Therefore, they wrote, “The emerging picture of the accurate POMC system is that of a circuit that can sense a wide array of signals and can then produce highly discriminatory responses through a differentiated set of circuits and molecular signaling mechanisms”. Thus, in layman’s terms, it appears the brain’s POMC system may be more complicated than researchers originally thought.
But, while discovering that the cannibinoids contained in cannabis can alter the brain’s chemistry to the point where it induces an insatiable need to eat is certainly enlightening, Tamas Horvath, a professor of neurobiology at Yale said that the study posed almost as many questions as it answered!
For instance, what physiological purpose is served by the POMC neurons’ ability to switch from suppressing hunger to amplifying it? In addition, Horvath also pondered whether the POMCs of people who are obese or who have diabetes may have altered functionality and, last but not least, what does all of this have to do with being high? Therefore, it appears that further research will be needed to answer these questions.
In the meantime, stoners worldwide now have a definitive answer to the question of why smoking pot gives you an insatiable need to eat everything in sight and, apparently it’s all in your mind or, perhaps I should say that it is all in your brain!
So, the next time that you sit down with your dab rig to relax and take a 420 break, you can thank those high as a kite lab mice for providing you with an explanation of why you feel an uncontrollable need to raid the pantry and consume a week’s worth of food in a matter of minutes!
Of course, after you have eaten everything in sight and contemplated making a run to the nearest convenience store for more, you will need a little exercise to burn off all of those extra calories.