What Is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a medical condition that can affect people who are frequent and long-term users.  

The major symptoms comprise severe bouts of vomiting, nausea, dehydration, and abdominal pain.  

CHS is regarded as being a rare condition; however, a study published in Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology states that the syndrome might be much more prevalent than thought. This is likely because of more awareness surrounding the condition.  

Dr Eric Lavonas, a spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, said, “CHS went from being something we didn’t know about and never talked about to being a common problem over the last five years.”  

Who’s at risk?  

People who have used cannabis since they were a teen and have continued to use it over a long period are the most at risk. It appears to develop over several years.  

Many individuals within the cannabis community don’t believe the condition exists or will argue that cannabis isn’t to blame. Their main argument is that it’s down to pesticide use when growing plants. 

Lot’s of people who use cannabis don’t want to admit there may be a negative side.  Especially when you consider all the work that has gone into stopping the demonisation surrounding it. However, we can’t ignore it and pretend like long-term overuse is not or cannot cause a problem.  

What causes CHS?  

Researchers are still trying to determine the exact cause along with why only some long-term users seem to experience it. This has led to some thinking genetics may be a factor while others think it may be down to an overstimulated cannabinoid system.  

The endocannabinoid system has 2 main receptors – CB1 and CB2.  

Researchers believe CB1 is the receptor responsible for regulating the effects cannabis has on the digestive system.  

What appears to happen with CHS is the receptors that bind to the different components of cannabis appear to change. Some become more active, while others shut down.  

These changes are suspected to be the cause of the symptoms, however, there is not enough evidence supporting this yet and further research is necessary.  

How is it treated?  

If you experience extensive bouts of severe vomiting, you may need to be hospitalised for a short time to receive fluids through an IV for dehydration. You may also get given anti-sickness and pain medication.  

Medical professionals recognise three phases of CHS:  

1. Prodromal: starts with abdominal discomfort or nausea in the morning. 

2. Hyperemetic: Individuals in this stage avoid certain foods or restrict food intake as they experience overwhelming, recurrent vomiting and nausea. They also gravitate toward hot baths and showers to ease their symptoms.  

3. Recovery: This is when people accept cannabis may be the problem and stop using it. The symptoms reduce over a few days but can sometimes take months.  

Unfortunately, to the dismay of cannabis lovers everywhere, stopping seems to be the only full-proof cure for this condition. Symptoms appear to return if the person starts using again.  

What do you think is the cause of CHS?

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