Pubdate: Sun, 17 Jun 2001
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2001 The Observer
Author: Tony Thompson


Attacks of 'the munchies' - the phenomenon associated with smoking
cannabis which results in late-night trips to the corner shop to stock
up on crisps, peanuts, cakes, chocolate, fizzy drinks and several
packs of extra large Rizlas - may have serious long-term health
consequences for frequent users, a new study has found.

While other research has focused on the effects of cannabis on the
brain or on trying to unravel the mystery of what produces the
increased appetite in the first place, a team from the University of
Buffalo looked instead at the nutritional and dietary changes that the
drug can induce.

More than 11,000 users and non-users between the ages of 20 and 59
were interviewed, given physical examinations and asked to fill in
questionnaires on foods eaten recently and regularly. Blood chemistry
tests were also done.

Regular users reported that 'the munchies' often struck without
warning and were so intense that they led to a desperate search for
something which could be eaten immediately. Lacking the time or
patience to prepare a meal, they found themselves drawn towards junk
food and quick snacks that tended to be high in sugar and salt but low
in fibre.

The study found that users ate fewer fruits and vegetables and
therefore had lower levels of essential antioxidants in their blood.
Marijuana is also thought to have a detrimental effect on levels of
vitamins and minerals. Users also drank more beer, spirits and
high-calorie drinks.

Despite the increased calorie intake, marijuana users are no more
likely to be overweight than non-users. This is believed to be due to
the effect that the drug has on the metabolism. Users were also three
times more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes which can produce an
appetite-suppressing effect.

'These lifestyle habits could increase the risk for chronic diseases
such as heart disease and cancer in the long term,' said Dr Ellen
Smit, the study's lead author. The study is one of a number being
conducted across America into various aspects of cannabis smoking in
response to increasing public pressure for the legalisation of
marijuana for medical purposes. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake