How Marijuana Affects Your Eating Habits and Appetite

How Marijuana Affects Your Eating Habits and Appetite

Per the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 18 million regular users make marijuana the most widely used drug in America, and more people meet the criteria for marijuana abuse than for the next six drugs combined. Marijuana, made up of greenish dried leaves from the hemp plant cannabis, contains the psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which acts on cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) in the brain and body. Natural endocannabinoids are present in the body, but when a person smokes marijuana, THC passes through the lungs, into the bloodstream and throughout the body to overstimulate the CBRs. As noted by the Brain Research journal in 2002, natural cannabinoids in the body are involved in appetite, and the International Review of Psychiatry confirmed in 2009 that marijuana’s effect on the receptors promote strong food cravings while also intensifying the enjoyment of eating. Marijuana users refer to this increased hunger as the munchies.

The most abundant type of cannabinoid receptor, CB1, exists primarily on nerve cells throughout the brain, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in the body. Many of these CBR clusters exist in areas associated with eating and appetite, including the following places:

  • Hypothalamus and hind brain areas that regulate the intake of food
  • The reward center in the brain associated with food enjoyment
  • The limbic forebrain that helps make food more palatable
  • Stomach and intestinal tissue involved in sending hunger signs

In 2003, the International Association for the Study of Obesity journal notes that marijuana can help people address certain diseases or eating disorders, but THC may promote unhealthy eating habits in the average marijuana user. In other words, marijuana abuse may lead to eating habits that promote weight gain or obesity, which are major health concerns. Still, other clinical journals, such as Medical Hypotheses in 2013, also ran studies that associate weight loss with marijuana abuse, which suggests the effects of THC may be inconsistent. Several other health concerns include the following issues:

  • In 2009, the American Journal of Medical Genetics found anxiety and depression risks increase with marijuana abuse
  • Per the 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network report, marijuana was present in more drug-related medical emergencies than amphetamines, heroin, LSD and MDMA combined
  • A study published by Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology in 1994 estimates that 9% of marijuana users become dependent on the drug

The Treatment Episode Data Set, which tracks substance abuse treatment admissions, found that 18% of admissions list marijuana as the primary drug abuse. The average age for such admissions was 24, and marijuana led all drugs in overall admissions. While considered mainly a psychologically addictive drug, marijuana can also cause withdrawal symptoms when users decrease or stop their drug abuse. A 2000 Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology study lists anxiety, irritability, mood changes and physical tension as potential withdrawal symptoms.

Professional treatment remains the most effective way to deal with addiction, and potential rehab services include the following methods:

  • Integrated treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Therapies that improve cognitive functions involved in behavior
  • Recovery tools to handle cues associated with marijuana cravings
  • Strategies to promote healthy eating habits and lifestyles
  • Potential holistic therapies to address insomnia and other issues

Please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline if you or a loved one struggles with marijuana abuse. Our admissions coordinators are always available to discuss addiction signs, treatments and recovery. They can answer questions about substance abuse and mental health issues, and they can even check health insurance plans for treatment benefits. Please call now for instant support.