CHS is a newly-discovered condition caused by cannabis use and results in intense bouts of vomiting after consuming marijuana.
While most people think of marijuana as a recreational drug, it actually has a range of medical applications.
One of the most well-known is its ability to treat vomiting and nausea.
Marijuana helps to block the chemical signals that trigger these symptoms, making it an effective treatment for conditions like chemotherapy-induced nausea and morning sickness.
With cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, marijuana has the opposite effect.
While the research on cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is still ongoing, we do know a bit about it already.
This article will discuss what cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is, the symptoms, and how to get help if you think you might have it.
What is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that results in vomiting and nausea after using cannabis.
Some people also experience abdominal pain, weight loss, and dehydration.
The exact causes of CHS are unknown, but it is thought to be linked to changes in the endocannabinoid system.
People who use cannabis regularly are more likely to develop CHS, and the symptoms usually appear after several years of heavy use.
Treatment for CHS typically involves discontinuing cannabis use and taking anti-nausea medications. In severe cases, patients may need to be hospitalized for fluids and electrolytes.
CHS is a relatively rare condition, but it can be very debilitating for those affected.
What causes cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is a relatively new phenomenon that the medical community has only recently recognized.
The condition is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting, leading to dehydration and weight loss. In some cases, cannabis hyperemesis syndrome can also cause abdominal pain and cramping.
The exact cause of the condition is unknown, but it is thought to be related to the overuse of cannabis.
Some studies have suggested that certain compounds in cannabis, such as THC, may disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system.
While the exact cause of CHS is not known, it is thought to be linked to changes in how the body processes THC.
THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and it binds to receptors in the brain responsible for regulating nausea and vomiting.
One theory is that long-term marijuana use causes these receptors to stop responding, resulting in CHS.
The digestive tract also contains many molecules that bind to THC and other substances found in marijuana. So when someone uses marijuana, it affects the way these molecules work, leading to changes in gut motility and other digestive issues.
Some theorize that this can increase stomach acids, which can then irritate the stomach lining and trigger nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is usually seen in heavy users of cannabis who have been using the drug for an extended period.
Symptoms of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome
There are three phases to cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, each with its own set of symptoms.
The symptoms of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome typically begin during the prodromal phase.
Patients may experience abdominal discomfort, fear of vomiting, and early morning nausea during this phase. However, patients do not typically vomit during the prodromal phase, unlike later stages.
Instead, the symptoms typically resolve themselves within a few hours.
The hyperemetic phase of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is the most severe and is characterized by overwhelming nausea and recurring vomiting.
Symptoms can include dry heaving, decreased food intake, food aversions, anxiety, white, watery secretions in vomit from lack of solid food, abdominal pain, weight loss, and dehydration.
Compulsive bathing with hot water is also seen by people suffering from CHS to ease symptoms.
This phase can last for days or even weeks, and the only relief is to stop using cannabis.
As a result, cannabis hyperemesis syndrome can be a debilitating condition that significantly interferes with one's quality of life.
Symptoms of CHS generally occur during the hyperemesis phase and resolve in the recovery phase after stopping cannabis use.
However, reusing cannabis often leads to a reoccurrence of symptoms.
How cannabis hyperemesis syndrome affects people
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome often causes extended bouts of frequent, uncontrollable vomiting and nausea.
Vomiting and nausea are uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms that can significantly impact a person's life.
When vomiting and nausea are constant, as opposed to being caused by a one-time event like food poisoning, they can lead to dehydration, weight loss, and malnutrition. In extreme cases, they can even be deadly.
Constant vomiting and nausea can also cause social isolation and anxiety. People may become afraid to leave the house or interact with others for fear of losing control of their symptoms.
Vomiting is the body's way of getting rid of something that it doesn't agree with - whether that be a virus, food poisoning, or too much alcohol.
However, when vomiting becomes constant, it can have a severe impact on the digestive system.
The stomach acid released during vomiting can damage the lining of the stomach and esophagus, leading to ulcers and inflammation. Tooth decay is another concern.
Additionally, chronic vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can cause electrolyte imbalances and other health problems. In severe cases, it can even lead to malnutrition.
For many people, constant vomiting and nausea are a daily reality that can be extremely difficult to manage.
Treatment for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome
Treatment for cannabis hyperemesis syndrome typically revolves around discontinuing the use of the drug and managing symptoms with antiemetics. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary to manage severe dehydration due to vomiting.
With proper treatment, most people with cannabis hyperemesis syndrome improve within a few days to weeks.
However, the condition can recur if someone resumes using cannabis; the only cure is permanently stopping cannabis use.
Can you prevent cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?
The only way to prevent cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is by not using cannabis in any form.
If you are already using cannabis and experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it's essential to see a doctor right away.
Can other cannabinoids cause cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?
THC is one of the primary cannabinoids in cannabis, and it is thought to be responsible for the majority of cases of CHS. However, there is some evidence to suggest that other cannabinoids, such as CBD, can also cause the condition.
Until we know more, it's best to avoid all cannabis use if you're susceptible to CHS.
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is a real and potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who use cannabis, especially on a regular basis.
If you experience any of the symptoms associated with CHS, it's important to see a doctor and discontinue cannabis use.
In most cases, symptoms will resolve within a few days to weeks. However, the only way to prevent the condition from recurring is by abstaining from cannabis permanently.
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is not currently well-understood, but it's clear that more research is needed to determine who is most at risk and why some people are more susceptible than others.
Until we know more, it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid cannabis use altogether. Have you or someone you know ever experienced cannabis hyperemesis syndrome? Let us know in the comments below.