SCIENTISTS INVESTIGATE WHY MARIJUANA GIVES YOU THE MUNCHIES
Anyone who is familiar with the drug marijuana knows about the “munchies.” After consuming the drug, people may consume excessive quantities of food. A bag of potato chips, a whole German chocolate cake, three hamburgers, a box of jelly donuts – nothing seems quite out of reach for a marijuana smoker with a bad episode of cravings. Have you ever wondered why this happens, though? Why do people who consume this narcotic suddenly have the urge to eat half of their groceries? According to scientists, the answer is simple.
Trust Your Gut…Literally
Recently, Washington State University professor John Davis proposed that our gut does not just provide signal us to consume food. In fact, Davis’ recent neuroscientific study at the University of Cincinnati has revealed the stomach also influences our feelings of motivation and learning, as well as addiction. As part of the study, Davis observed bariatric surgery procedures at UC and revealed that people can develop addiction problems as the result of bypass surgeries (or weight loss procedures). In other words, the human gut and the human brain share a very strong bond.
The System of Appetite Regulation
This portion of the brain that shares a communication channel with our guts is basically referred to as the endocannabinoid system, which singularly influences the peripheral and central nervous systems. According to past studies, the endocannabinoid system controls critical aspects of our physiology including fertility mood, and (most importantly) our appetites. Even more interesting, this system is populated by CB1 and CB2, two receptors that control how our bodies react to marijuana (cannabis).
In terms of its use in modern medicine, marijuana is sometimes prescribed to help patients who suffer from a loss of appetite. One drug called dronabinol (a synthetic variant of the cannabinoid THC found in marijuana) is used to treat appetites in people undergoing cancer treatment or suffering from AIDS.
On a side note, scientists also designed a compound called rimonabant (SR 141716) to counteract the effects of CB1 and CB2. Basically, this drug redirects the neural pathways to suppress appetite. While future studies proved rimonabant was potentially dangerous, it did help researchers learn more about how the endocannabinoid system works and its connection with marijuana.
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