The Science Behind the Munchies

By Valerie Tejeda 05/16/12

Why are stoners so compelled to snack? The dopamine, stupid.

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It makes my brain like the food more.
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Now there's a scientific rationale behind the marijuana munchies, explaining why certain foods taste so good after smoking pot. A study published in the journal Neuropharmacologyled by Maria Antonietta De Luca from the University of Cagliari in Italyexamines the specific brain regions that allow marijuana's active ingredient, THC, to activate feelings of pleasure when different foods are consumed. Any time we eat food that tastes good, the feel-good chemical dopamine is released in our brains, which makes us crave that food more often. The researchers found that eating under the influence of THC leads to a dramatically increased dopamine release—but this occurs only when the food consumed is sugary, and not when eating foods that we normally dislike. So if you don’t normally enjoy eating a certain food, you won't suddenly crave it after smoking pot. And it's the importance of sugar that explains all those late-night lines at Kripy Kremes.

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.