In recent years, the increasing prevalence of cannabis use has sparked interest and concern among researchers and healthcare professionals. While the therapeutic potential of cannabis for various medical conditions is widely acknowledged, an emerging phenomenon known as Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) has raised significant medical alarm.
CHS is a puzzling condition characterized by recurrent bouts of severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, primarily affecting chronic cannabis users.
This article aims to shed light on the enigmatic nature of Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome by exploring its causes and potential treatment options. Let’s learn together!
What Is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?
Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a condition that occurs when someone uses marijuana for a long time. People with CHS have recurring episodes of severe cyclical vomiting syndrome, nausea, dehydration, and stomach pain, often leading to frequent visits to the emergency department.
Hyperemesis means really bad vomiting. Cannabinoids are substances found in the cannabis plant that attach to cannabinoid receptors in our brains, stomachs, and immune cells. The most well-studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabigerol (CBG).
Who Might Get Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?
Regular cannabis use can put people at risk of a condition called CHS. It usually happens to those who use cannabis at least once a week, especially adults who have been using it since they were young. In most cases, symptoms of CHS appear after several years of continuous marijuana use.
What Causes Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?
Scientists are not sure about the exact cause of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome CHS. One idea is that genetics might be involved. Another possibility is that CHS happens when your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) gets overstimulated. The ECS is like a network in your body with receptors that react to substances found in cannabis.
What Are the CHS Symptoms?
CHS has some main symptoms: intense nausea and cyclic vomiting syndrome. People with this condition vomit a lot, sometimes without warning, and can vomit up to five times per hour. They may also have stomach pain, lose weight, and look dehydrated.
CHS has three phases, each with different symptoms:
This phase is common in adults who started using cannabis as teenagers. You may have stomach pain or feel nauseous in the morning. You might also worry about throwing up but never actually vomit.
This phase usually lasts 24 to 48 hours. People in this phase experience constant vomiting and nausea. You might start taking a lot of baths and avoiding certain foods or eating less on purpose.
In this phase, people stop entirely using cannabis, even in small amounts. Symptoms gradually improve over a few days or months until they disappear completely.
Does Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome Have Long-Term Effects?
Ongoing research is looking into the long-term effects of CHS. But frequent vomiting can cause health problems, such as:
- Dehydration: Not having enough water in your body.
- Esophagitis: Inflammation in your food pipe.
- Malnutrition: Not getting enough nutrients.
- Mallory-Weiss syndrome: Tears in your food pipe.
- Tooth decay: Damage to your teeth.
How Is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome Diagnosed?
Experiencing repeated vomiting can be caused by various health problems. To diagnose the underlying cause, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical examination, including examining your belly.
In some cases, your doctor may need additional tests to rule out other possible causes of the vomiting, especially if they could indicate a severe health emergency. Based on your symptoms, these tests may include:
- Blood tests to check for anemia and infection.
- Electrolyte tests.
- Tests to assess the function of your pancreas and liver.
- Pregnancy test.
- Urine analysis to look for infection or urinary issues.
- Drug screen to detect any drug-related causes of vomiting.
- X-rays of the belly to check for blockages.
- Upper endoscopy to examine the stomach and esophagus for potential causes of vomiting.
- Head CT scan if there is a suspicion of a nervous system-related cause.
- Abdominal CT scan to evaluate any health problems that may require surgery.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) has only recently been discovered, so some healthcare providers may not be familiar with it and may mistake it for cyclical vomiting disorder, a similar condition. In such cases, a gastroenterologist specializing in digestive tract diseases may make the correct diagnosis.
Symptoms of CHS
You may have CHS if you experience all of the following:
- Long-term and frequent use of marijuana, both weekly and daily.
- Belly pain.
- Severe, repeated nausea and vomiting.
- Feeling better after taking a hot shower.
- There is no single test to confirm the diagnosis of CHS. The only way to confirm it is by experiencing improvement after quitting marijuana.
Treatment for cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome typically involves hospitalization during the severe vomiting phase and may include the following:
- Intravenous fluids to rehydrate your body.
- Medications to reduce vomiting.
- Pain relievers.
- Proton-pump inhibitors to treat stomach inflammation.
- Frequent hot showers.
- Prescribed medications, such as benzodiazepines, to help calm you down.
- Rubbing capsaicin cream on the belly, which can provide relief from pain and nausea for some individuals. The chemicals in the cream have a similar effect to a hot shower.
- Symptoms often improve within a day or two unless marijuana is used during this time.
To fully recover, it is essential to stop using marijuana altogether. Some people may benefit from drug rehabilitation programs to help them quit, while others find cognitive behavioral therapy or family therapy helpful. If you cease using marijuana, your symptoms should not return.
Is There a Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome Cure?
The only solution to permanently cure CHS is to stop using cannabis. After you quit cannabis, you may experience CHS symptoms and side effects for a few weeks, but don’t worry! With time, these symptoms will go away.
Can I Treat CHS Symptoms at Home?
The best way to cure CHS is to stop using cannabis. While hot baths can temporarily help with nausea, they don’t fix CHS and can worsen dehydration if you sweat too much.
After quitting cannabis, you can immediately use home treatments to relieve CHS symptoms. These remedies are not long-term solutions, but they can assist you during recovery.
Your healthcare provider may suggest the following:
- Antipsychotic medications
- Capsaicin cream for pain relief
- Intravenous (IV) hydration if you’re severely dehydrated from vomiting
- Pain relievers
How Can I Prevent Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?
The best way to avoid cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is by not using cannabis at all. If you want to quit using cannabis and need support, talk to your doctor or reach out to addiction treatment services in your area. They can help you.
In conclusion, Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is characterized by persistent nausea and vomiting, often caused by chronic cannabis use. Risk factors for developing CHS include substance abuse and long-term cannabis consumption. While hot showers may provide temporary relief, the only definitive treatment for CHS is abstaining from cannabis use.
To prevent CHS, it is crucial to raise awareness about its symptoms and educate individuals about the potential risks of chronic cannabis use. Mental health services administration and complementary and integrative health approaches can be vital in addressing this syndrome and supporting those affected.