To test the munchies, researchers offer a choice: chips or an orange?

April 23, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Picture this: Researchers attending a cannabis decriminalization event ask attendees, who are high on marijuana, to fill out surveys. The questionnaires ask participants to list the foods they typically eat while high and how much more, or less, they eat when under the influence, among other questions.

Their reward for filling out the survey? They can choose an orange or a bag of chips. You can guess which option they selected most.

The results certainly aren't surprising: Nearly two-thirds of the 275 people who took the survey chose the chips, compared to 32 percent who picked fruit and 7 percent who didn't take either.

But, they do highlight an important issue as more states in the U.S. begin legalizing recreational marijuana use among adults: the increased need for tailored nutrition education as the population of pot-smokers grows.

"Given the dramatic increase in the accessibility of cannabis, there will be many more people experiencing the munchies," said Jessica Kruger, lead author on the study, published April 17 in the journal of the International Society for Human Ethology.

"Public health has the responsibility of protecting the public, maximizing benefits and minimizing harm in any area," added Kruger, clinical assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB's School of Public Health and Health Professions who has also studied the drunk munchies, or drunchies.

"We need more research and education on people who choose to use cannabis, moving public health from an abstinence-promotion model to a harm reduction model. This would include managing the dietary impact of cannabis use."

Ethology is the study of animal or human behavior under natural conditions. And that's what makes this study so unique. It's the first systematic naturalistic study investigating food choices while subjects are high.

The surveys were administered at the 2016 Hash Bash, an annual public forum held on the campus of the University of Michigan.

Surveying people while they're high may seem like a potential headache in the making. But there are several advantages compared to administering questionnaires in a more neutral setting when participants are not under the influence. For starters, researchers are able to observe actual behaviors in a natural environment and compare those to self-reported survey responses, Kruger points out.

"There is research indicating that recall is enhanced when experiencing the same conditions as the events being recalled, so there may be enhanced accuracy," added study co-author Daniel Kruger, a research associate professor of community health and health behavior at UB and research faculty at the University of Michigan.

"This is also an event where cannabis enthusiasts are surrounded by other cannabis enthusiasts, so they may feel more comfortable being open and honest with their responses," he said.

Questions included "What do you typically eat when you are high on marijuana?" and "Are you more or less likely to eat these foods when you are high on marijuana compared to other times?" Another question was, "How much more or less do you eat when you are high on marijuana compared to other times?"

As expected, participants who reported eating healthy foods while intoxicated were more likely to choose fruit after taking the survey. Those who said they eat unhealthy food while high selected the chips more often than not.

Participants' intoxication states ranged from "not at all high" (19 percent), to "somewhat" (16 percent), to "moderately" (29 percent), to "very" (22 percent) and "extremely" (14 percent). Researchers noted there wasn't much of a relationship between their level of intoxication and their response patterns.

While the results confirm a popular stereotype, they also indicate that people can make healthy food choices while they are high on marijuana. That's why the study research team advocates tailored health education for cannabis users, who are less likely to trust traditional drug-use prevention programs such as abstinence.

"People may also respond differently when they are actually high on cannabis, so we need to find methods that work to promote healthy and safe behaviors under these conditions," Jessica Kruger said.
Researchers from the University of Toledo and SUNY Cortland also contributed to the paper.

University at Buffalo

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to