Cannabis has long been associated with “the munchies,” an
uncontrollable urge to snack or feast on a large assortment of healthy, or more
likely, unhealthy food options. But this urge to consume food is far more
important to medical cannabis patients, especially those suffering from HIV,
AIDS, and cancer.
It has been known that cannabinoids like THC and CBD have an
influence on how we as humans consume food, often playing a role in either
weight gain or weight loss. Stimulation of CB1 and CB2 receptors found
throughout the body are known to increase cravings for food increasing weight
gain, while “antagonism” of these CB receptors can cause weight loss.
While small doses of THC are known to not promote weight
gain, extended and more frequent cannabis consumption is known to increase an
individual’s daily caloric intake, likely due to more food intake, or snacks,
gain in patients with HIV, AIDS, and cancer
For patients with HIV or AIDS, it is of clinical certainty
that cannabis consumption via smoking or oral consumption is effective in
increasing food intake. In a University of California study, patients consuming
cannabis with Dronabinol, and by smoking, saw a weight gain of 3.5 kg and 3.1 kg
respectively. Similar results were seen across other studies.
Cancer patients can also experience weight gain with
cannabis therapy. Studies going as far back as 1975 have suggested that
cannabis could treat nausea and stimulate appetite. Furthermore, other clinical
studies have suggested that cannabis use could increase food intake in those
who are underweight, but not increase food intake in those who are either of
normal weight, or who are overweight. This could be explained by other factors
including the frequency of cannabis use, along with other substances at play
within the individual user.
Cannabis as an alternative
Cannabis offers an alternative treatment to other drugs (like
Megestrol) that aim to produce weight gain in HIV, AIDS, and cancer patients.
While clinically proven to promote weight gain, cannabis isn’t known to produce
more weight gain than existing, traditional treatment options.
Sansone R. A., Sansone L. A. Marijuana and body weight. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 2014;11(7-8):50–54.