In a new study published this week in Nature Neuroscience, European researchers claim to have proven that smoking weed does, in fact, give you the munchies. Beyond that, they appear to have isolated the specific region of the brain that is affected by THC consumption, and identified the process through which that desire to eat an entire box of Lucky Charms at 2am comes from.
|So many choices…|
In their study, the team of neuroscientists used a mischief of mice to conduct their herbal experimentation on, due to the cognitive similarities that mice share with humans. Roughly half the time, the mice got to get super baked, the other half they had to sit around sober as churchmice, and then…well…what happened to some of the poor critters near the end is downright freaky.
We’ve all done it, eaten way too much after enjoying a toke or two. Types and quantities of foods that you may never imagine yourself willingly stuffing in your face get stuffed, and the candy wrappers on the night stand in the morning are all of the non-scientific evidence most of us need in order to believe in the power of “the munchies”.
But the research team who authored the study was seeking slightly more solid data. So they grabbed a bunch of mice and marijuana, and went to work.
They began by introducing regular ol’ boring sober mice to banana and almond oils, to test their initial sensitivity to scent. Much like a human frat boy and his own farts, the mice expectedly took a few long sniffs, and then finally decided that enough was enough and lost interest – a common trait known as olfactory habituation.
A group was then given a dank dose of potent THC, and that’s when things started to look familiar to any midnight toker. Once dosed up, the mice couldn’t get enough of the aromatic oils, sniffing themselves silly. Additionally, the stoned group devoured a much higher portion of food than normal.
This increased sensitivity to aromas and increased appetite are not coincidental, as human and animal behavior has historically shown that the better you are able to smell your food, the more desire you will have to devour it.
The study shows that first, THC tricks our body into feeling hungry, whether it really is or not, by triggering cannabinoid receptors which release a hormone that quite literally induces the feeling of starvation.
Next, more receptors are bombarded by THC in the region of the brain responsible for regulating the flow of naturally produced dopamines. These dopamines give us a very real sense of pleasure as we are eating, and eating, and eating.
Still seeking to eliminate any and all variables, the researchers’ next move was the stuff of horror movies. They created a genetically modified group of mice in their lab, systematically breeding out the lobe in the brain that triggers the hike in appetite and smell recognition, effectively rendering the mice immune to two of the most important benefits of marijuana consumption. These man-made-mice had little or no interest in smelling oils or vaping them, and they enjoyed no increase in appetite when dosed with THC.
As a final study group, the first group of mice, now totally sober, was made to go without food or water for a full 24 hours. Shocking nobody, those mice showed similar signs as when they were stoned, with greater smell recognition, increased appetite, and a verifiable increase in natural cannabinoid activity.
The work being done on the grass-roots level to determine the exact effects of different terpenes and cannabinoids is demonstrating more and more each day that every aspect of the cannabis plant ought to be appreciated, and protected. As global research into the under-discussed endocannabinoid system grows, we must beware of “CBD-only” legislation, and those who advocate for only certain parts of the plant that we all enjoy, lest we become the mice.