Long-Term Marijuana Use Can Lead To Rare Condition: Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, Say Physicians

With the widespread use of cannabis, a condition involving cyclic vomiting, which was considered rare and still difficult to ascertain is becoming more common, says one physician, though treatment is available.

What Is CHS?

Caused by chronic cannabis use, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) causes repeated episodes of severe nausea, vomiting and stomach cramping, according to American Addiction Centers.

Though still not widely known or completely understood, CHS is characterized by a strong and often enduring sensitivity to THC and possibly other cannabinoids.

Dr. Borisav Stoev, the chair of emergency services at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, says that it is not yet clear how much marijuana needs to be used to trigger the condition, even though edible forms of marijuana tend to have a delayed effect and possibly lead to unintended overuse.

He highlighted that the number of patients coming to the ER with these debilitating side effects is rising.

There’s a “lot of patients presenting with nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and that’s related to heavy use.. and usually the long-term use,” Stoev told CBS 2 News.

Why Is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome being seen in hospitals more often lately?

Andrew Rosner, VP of the Cannabis Association of New York, says that people are starting to feel more comfortable seeking treatment at a hospital due to marijuana being legal in more states.

“What this creates now is an opportunity to educate about safe use and what is Hyperemesis and how to prevent it,” he said.

A condition that has been historically difficult to diagnose with extensive gastrointestinal workups is becoming identified more often, Dr. Stoev explained.

“Before… we didn’t know what it was and we thought it was something else and we were not able to diagnose it,” he said, adding that “now we can see it certainly a lot more frequently.”

Is There A Cure?

Luckily, there’s an effective treatment. While traditional anti-nausea meds are not particularly helpful, Dr. Stoev said that antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol work directly on the cannabinoid receptors in a patient’s body, resulting in alleviating the symptoms.

“Often, it can lead to controlling their symptoms in the ER and being able to get them home with the proper instructions,” he said.

Cannabis and Digestion

Cannabis primarily reacts with the end cannabinoid system in the human body. The endocannabinoid system, or the ECS, is a network of receptors distributed throughout the body and brain/central nervous system. However, the digestive system also has cannabis receptors.

The impact of introducing marijuana into the body can be seen through these intricate and precisely crafted receptors. Depending on the person and their response, the outcomes may have positive and negative effects on a user.

Photo: Courtesy of Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

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