Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a condition that has emerged due to chronic, long-term cannabis use. CHS is a concerning condition characterized by severe vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain.

Cannabis, often considered a benign substance, has gained significant attention in recent years for its potential health benefits and recreational use. However, it’s essential to recognize that cannabis use isn’t risk-free. This article examines the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for CHS.

The Rise of Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)

CHS is a relatively recent medical phenomenon, first described in medical literature in 2004. It has since gained more recognition, likely due to increasing cannabis consumption worldwide and increased awareness among healthcare providers.

It is a complex condition, and understanding it requires a close look at its symptoms, underlying causes, and potential treatment avenues.

Symptoms of CHS

  • Recurrent Nausea and Vomiting: The hallmark symptoms of CHS are relentless bouts of nausea and vomiting. These episodes can be intense and debilitating, sometimes lasting for hours or days.
  • Abdominal Pain: Alongside vomiting and nausea, patients with CHS often experience severe abdominal pain. This pain can be localized or more diffuse, and is often described as cramp-like or colicky.
  • Compulsive Hot Showers or Baths: A distinctive feature of CHS is the relief some individuals experience from hot showers or baths. This peculiar phenomenon, often referred to as the “hot water cure,” is a unique aspect of CHS.
  • Weight Loss and Dehydration: Frequent vomiting and inability to keep food down can lead to significant weight loss and dehydration, which, if left unaddressed, can lead to serious health complications.
  • Cannabinoid Use: A critical factor in diagnosing CHS is the long-term, heavy use of cannabis. Patients typically report using cannabis multiple times a day for several months or years before the onset of symptoms.

Causes of CHS

The exact cause of CHS remains ongoing, but several theories have been proposed:

  • Cannabinoid Accumulation: One theory suggests heavy, long-term cannabis use may lead to the accumulation of cannabinoids in the body’s fatty tissues. Over time, these stored cannabinoids may be released into the bloodstream, triggering the symptoms of CHS.
  • Effect on the Digestive System: Cannabis can influence the digestive system, slowing down the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. This delayed transit time may contribute to the development of CHS symptoms.
  • Hypothalamic Dysfunction: Some researchers hypothesize that CHS may be related to dysfunction in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that regulates various bodily functions, including nausea and vomiting.
  • Interaction with the Endocannabinoid System: Cannabis interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in maintaining balance and homeostasis. Disruptions in this system due to prolonged cannabis use could potentially contribute to CHS.

Treatment and Management

Managing CHS can be challenging, but several strategies may help alleviate symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life:

  • Cessation of Cannabis Use: The most effective treatment for CHS is the complete cessation of cannabis use. This can be difficult for individuals with a history of heavy use, but it is essential to break the cycle and allow the body to eliminate stored cannabinoids.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Patients with CHS often require intravenous fluids to address dehydration. Ensuring adequate nutrition is also crucial, and some individuals may need nutritional support through a feeding tube.
  • Antiemetic Medications: Antiemetic drugs, such as ondansetron or metoclopramide, can help manage nausea and vomiting during CHS episodes.
  • Hot Showers or Baths: While not a long-term solution, hot showers or baths can provide temporary relief from symptoms and may be used as a complementary approach.
  • Counseling and Support: Patients dealing with CHS benefit from counseling and support to address the psychological and emotional aspects of their condition. Quitting cannabis use can be challenging, and therapy can help individuals cope with this transition.
  • Participation in 12-Step Fellowship: Patients dealing with CHS benefit from joining a 12-step fellowship, such as Marijuana Anonymous. Participating in a supportive community with individuals struggling with similar chemical dependency can provide significant support for those seeking to abstain from marijuana.

Preventing Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome

Prevention is always better than cure. To reduce the risk of developing CHS, individuals can consider the following:

  • Eliminate Cannabis Use: Avoid heavy, long-term cannabis use, and abstain entirely, especially if you have a history of gastrointestinal issues or are susceptible to nausea and vomiting.
  • Awareness of Symptoms: If you experience persistent nausea and vomiting and are a regular cannabis user, seek medical attention. Early diagnosis and intervention can prevent the progression of CHS.
  • Alternatives for Symptom Management: Explore alternative methods for managing symptoms such as pain, anxiety, or insomnia that don’t rely on heavy cannabis use.

Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome is a complex condition that has become more recognized in recent years. It primarily affects long-term cannabis users and is characterized by severe vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain.

The exact causes of CHS remain under investigation, but its symptoms are well-documented. Management involves discontinuing cannabis use, hydration, nutritional support, antiemetic medications, psychological counseling, and participation in Marijuana Anonymous.

As cannabis legalization continues in many parts of the world. Understanding the risks associated with its use, such as Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome, becomes increasingly important.

I believe patients and healthcare providers must work together to recognize and address CHS effectively. Ultimately, the key to managing CHS is early detection and cessation of cannabis use. Comprehensive medical care is also necessary to alleviate symptoms and promote recovery.

About Shari Corbitt

Dr. Shari Corbitt is a distinguished clinical psychologist with an enduring commitment to enhancing the mental well-being of individuals and communities. Holding a Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D), she has amassed a wealth of experience and expertise, making her a trusted authority in the field of mental health. As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Corbitt has provided compassionate and evidence-based therapy to countless clients. Her areas of specialization range from cannabis-induced psychosis and mood disorders to anxiety, and chronic pain, as it relates to PTSD and trauma, as well as stress-related conditions. She is widely recognized for her empathetic approach, creating a safe and supportive space for clients to embark on their healing journeys. Dr. Corbitt founded Awakenings Treatment Center to provide cutting-edge treatment for individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders, as well as related emotional difficulties. Optimal wellness is the goal for every client. She lives in gratitude each day for her own recovery, which she enjoys one day at a time.