The munchies is a condition that results in empty food containers and packets in the kitchen… and the living room… and the bedroom… and the guest room.

One can catch the munchies by consuming certain special herbs. It can cause humans to consume several times their own body weight of potato crisps in the space of a few minutes, but still, keep eating. It has been the subject of jokes in movies and is a well-known phenomenon amongst those who have experience with these herbs.

If you’re not a cannabis user then there’s no need to worry, the munchies only seem to affect those who enjoy smoking or eating marijuana.

So what are the munchies and what exactly causes them?

Jon Davis, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington State University thinks he may have found the answer to that question. Davis and a team of students at Washington State University have been searching for the reason why cannabis increases feelings of hunger. They hope that their research will help them to discover a way to combat the malnutrition experienced by over 80% of cancer patients whilst undergoing chemotherapy.

And they think they may have found the answer by hotboxing rats for science.

Davis and his team exposed rats to cannabis smoke and studied their eating behaviour. They discovered that the rats who had been exposed to the marijuana ate more frequently than the control group (who were not allowed to get stoned). Davies found that levels of Ghrelin, a hunger hormone, were higher in the rats that had been exposed to the cannabis.

Ghrelin is a hormone that sends signals to the brain that tells it we need to eat. Cannabis appears to increase the levels of Ghrelin so the brain thinks it needs to eat more. This could explain the strange behaviour of people who are afflicted by the munchies scarfing down 3 pizzas followed by another 6 pizzas.

Ghrelin has long been known as the “hunger hormone,” but Davis said this is the first time that researchers have discovered a direct causal link which includes ghrelin. When the rats became stoned their ghrelin levels rose and they began to eat more. When ghrelin levels fell again, the rats eating behavior returned to normal.

“There’s a lot of important research we’d like to do with humans,” Davis said. “We need volunteers who want to smoke a lot of cannabis and eat tasty food.”

One thing’s for sure. He definitely won’t have any trouble finding volunteers.

Akhil was raised by movies, television, and the internet. A never-ending source of absolutely useless information. He would tell you more, but he was distracted by something shiny