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Are the (Weed) Munchies for Real?

The answer lies deep in your hypothalamus

I’m a munchies lab rat, halfway through The Great British Bake Off after eating a weed gummy. They’re real enough for me, as my desire to consume a pint of Ben & Jerry’s overcomes my couch inertia. With each gooey, peanuty bite of The Tonight Dough, I’m more ravenous. My hunger grows like the Fibonacci sequence until I’ve eaten so much that I fill my internal void. I go back to the couch and watch more British.

So, yes, the munchies are real, and hunger science backs me up.
The process, which explains why my freezer is full of cookie dough and chocolate ice cream to pair with my gummy stash, was revealed in a 2015 scientific paper written by Dr. Tamas Horvath, a professor of neurobiology at Yale University, and his team. They found that hypothalamic proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons encourage cannabinoid-induced munchies.

Typically, these neurons keep our hunger in check, but when cannabis enters the picture, POMC switches, they write, “from secreting the substance that suppresses gorging to one that encourages it.”

Fortunately, or unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid it if your goal is to get high. “Those cells in the brain that tell you that you had enough to eat (let’s say after dinner) can be rapidly turned into cells that promote ferocious hunger (munchies) if cannabis reaches them,” said Dr. Horvath. “These cells become hunger-promoting by releasing opiates.”

This explains why CBD products don’t send me straight to the freezer. They’re THC-free and thus don’t trigger the cannabinoid receptor responsible for the munchies. 

For scientists, this all means that further research could find therapeutic approaches that would increase or reduce appetites. For you, it means that if you want to enjoy those intoxicating effects without raiding the pantry, you’ll need a strategy. Below are a few ways to prevent cannabis-induced gorging.

How Not To Get the Munchies from Marijuana

Don’t Skip Lunch
Eat a regular, healthy meal before partaking, and drink plenty of water. If your stomach is full going in, you’ll have less of an urge to eat more.

Distract Your Stomach
If you stay busy, you’ll be less likely to mosey on over to the kitchen. Dive into an activity like coloring, doing a puzzle, or searching for MP3s of rare Phish concerts on message boards.

Clean Your Teeth
Apply the harsh lesson learned from taking a big swig of OJ after brushing your teeth in the morning. Nothing tastes great when mixed with toothpaste residue. Brush your teeth to form a minty barrier that will wall off your pleasure-seeking taste buds.

Stuff Yourself Sensibly
Sooner or later, you’re going to give in and gorge. Prepare for these times by stocking up on healthy snacks, so the fallout isn’t as bad. Low-calorie vegetables are a good option. For example, one celery stalk is only 6 calories. That means if you stuffed 100 celery stalks down your gullet, you’d only consume 600 calories. And trust me, you can’t. Nuts and granola are other good options, albeit higher in calories. Experiment to determine the right snacks.