Where does the word munchies come from?

It’s the ultimate stoner question: where does the word munchies come from? And why does weed give you the munchies?

Most sources agree that North Americans started using the term munchies to describe marijuana food cravings in the early 1970s. The Winter 1971 University of South Dakota scholarly journal ‘Current Slang’ included the definition, “Munchies, n. Snacks to eat after smoking marijuana,” on the same page as gems like “Pillowed, adj. Pregnant,” and “Pizza face, n. A bad case of acne.”

Also in 1971, Dr. Charles T. Tart released the classic On Being Stoned which documents the experiences of 150 marijuana users, including its effects on hunger. The book doesn’t use the term munchies, but it does include some great quotes from participants in the psychological study:

  • ”Taste sensations take on new qualities that they don’t have when straight.”
  • “I enjoy eating very much and eat a lot.”
  • “When eating, the texture and temperature are important.”

The 1971 volume of the scholarly journal “Current Slang” includes one of the first known references to the word munchies.

Why does weed give you the munchies?

A 2014 study published in Nature Neuroscience found that, in mice, THC fits the receptors in the brain in charge of smell and taste, making them extra sensitive. So it’s possible that we get the munchies because we can smell food a lot easier, and it tastes really good!

Humans and mice also get habituated to smells once they’re around them for a while, but scientists observed that mice given THC didn’t lose their sensitivity. That could mean that THC makes it harder for us to ignore the delicious smell of pizza, popcorn or potato chips… and it’s probably THC latching onto olfactory sensors that made Harold and Kumar go to White Castle.

A 2015 study published in Nature found that using cannabis tells your body to release the hunger hormone, ghrelin, so even if you don’t smell any delicious foods you may still get the munchies.

How to avoid getting the munchies when stoned

If you’re using cannabis during cancer treatment, you’re likely hoping it increases your appetite. But if you’re trying to avoid eating 10 pounds of food every time you get high, there are a few things you can do:

  • Keep busy. Plan to play video games or dive into a craft, so you don’t find yourself reaching for the chocolate bars.
  • Keep your mouth full. Chew on a toothpick or some gum, to enjoy the feel and flavour of food without the calories.
  • Be prepared. Fill your house with healthy snacks, or prepare smaller portions of junk food before you imbibe. Instead of inhaling the entire pint of ice cream or a whole can of Pringles, maybe… half a can will do.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you end up getting the munchies, don’t let calorie counting ruin the experience! It’s OK to cave to your cravings and enjoy a tasty treat every once in a while.

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