Cannabinoids and appetite: food craving and food pleasure

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2009 Apr;21(2):163-71. doi: 10.1080/09540260902782810.


The ability of Cannabis sativa to promote eating has been documented for many centuries, with the drug reported by its users to promote strong cravings for, and an intensification of the sensory and hedonic properties of food. These effects are now known to result from the actions of cannabinoid molecules at specific cannabinoid receptor sites within the brain, and to reflect the physiological role of their natural ligands, the endocannabinoids, in the control of appetite. Recent developments in the biochemistry and pharmacology of endocannabinoid systems have generated convincing evidence from animal models for a normal role of endocannabinoids in the control of eating motivation. The availability of specific cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists raises the possibility of improved therapies for disorders of eating and body weight: not only in the suppression of appetite to counter our susceptibility to the over-consumption of highly pleasurable and energy-dense foods; but also in the treatment of conditions that involve reduced appetite and weight loss. Here, we outline some of the findings of the past decade that link endocannabinoid function appetite control, and the possible clinical applications of that knowledge.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / biosynthesis*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism*


  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Cannabinoids
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid