Medical Marijuana Substance Abuse

Things You Need To Know About Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Drug trade and use continues to be one of the major problems in the U.S. The government’s initiative to scale down drug trade in the country has somehow lead to the legalization of cannabis, which is one of the most common illegal substances used. Despite initiatives to legalize the substance, lawmakers may have overlooked one point with marijuana use: the emergence of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.

What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a collection of symptoms that occur after prolonged and massive usage of cannabis. According to an Australian clinical study conducted by Dr. Hugh Allen in 2004, about 10 patients were exhibiting the same symptoms, with all of them found to be marijuana users.

Excessive use of marijuana is the result of such condition. This occurs when marijuana is used more than 3-5 times a day, which eventually leads to a chronic use of the substance for years on end.

Cannabis use creates a euphoric effect to the user. However, some individuals may experience this rare condition despite its usual antiemetic effect. What cannabis users would do is to take in more with the hope of being relieved with the unfavorable symptoms. However, increasing the dose will do more harm than good.

Signs and Symptoms of CHS

Individuals who suffer from CHS usually complain of abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. They may frequent the emergency room for 3-5 times before doctors would conclude that the vomiting and nausea is related to marijuana use because there are other conditions that may exhibit the same symptoms.

CHS is a rare condition; it does not happen to all cannabis users. It usually takes years before the onset of symptoms occur. The shortest reported length of consumption of cannabis having the symptoms was 18 months.

Individuals who have CHS may experience the following:

  • Agitated state
  • Apprehension
  • Sweating
  • Postural hypotension
  • Tachycardia
  • Hypokalemia
  • Alkalosis
  • Hypochloremia
  • Elevated urea
  • Esophagitis
  • Gastric mucosal trauma

How is it different from Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) may also present the same symptoms as that of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.  It usually lasts from a few hours to several days. Repeated attacks happen with no apparent reason. The only difference of CVS from CHS is that with CVS, cannabis use is not present.

Each episode of CVS happens as the previous one, which means episodes may occur at the same time of the day, the same duration, or with the same symptoms and intensity.

Treatment for CHS

Cannabis users usually find relief when they take a hot shower.  According to a study from Philadelphia, “taking hot showers may be a way of correcting the cannabis-induced imbalance that affects the regulation of temperature of the hypothalamus”.

The symptoms usually go away after a few days of completely stopping from consuming cannabis.

Other forms of treatment for this condition include providing medications to relieve from abdominal pain and electrolyte replacement to maintain the balance of electrolytes in the body lost due to vomiting.

This condition, if left untreated, may lead to severe dehydration and kidney failure.

CHS in the News

It must have come as a surprise to some pro-cannabis legalization that such condition happens. Although CHS has been reported just over a decade ago, it is only now after the legalization of marijuana on several states that there has been an increase in individuals who are reported to be suffering from such condition.

One popular involves a certain Lance Crowder, who has been going in and out of the emergency room for abdominal pain and vomiting. However, doctors were not able to find out what was wrong with him. It was Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital who finally found out that Crowder was having CHS. When Dr. Heard asked Crowder if he feels relieved taking hot showers, he immediately knew what was wrong with Crowder.

Outside of Colorado, patients who were sent to the emergency room are often misdiagnosed partly because doctors are unaware of the symptoms presented by CHS and that these patients would not admit to using cannabis.

Impact of Marijuana Legalization on CHS Incidence

The main effect of taking marijuana is having that euphoric feeling, which has encouraged many people to try it and eventually get hooked on it. Incidentally, medical experts have found out that using cannabis may give benefits to people who are suffering from severe pain which is common to cancer patients. In other words, patients may have found an alternative source of relief in marijuana. This is the primary reason why marijuana legalization was pushed.

More and more states have legalized the use of marijuana, and several more states are expected to join the bandwagon. While it remains like an endless debate among others who do not agree to its legalization, still there are people who see it as their last recourse in helping them cope with the severe pain they are going through.

The New York Times stated the following reasons for legalizing marijuana, namely:

  • It will relieve the government from using additional funds. Individuals have been arrested and put behind bars because of possession of cannabis. Police authorities are spending so much time and money running after individuals when they can focus and use their time going after individuals involved in much severe crimes.
  • Despite the government’s initiatives of criminalizing marijuana offenders, it has failed in reducing the number of people involved in using marijuana.
  • Cannabis has known medical benefits. For many years, marijuana has been referred to something that has a negative effect on one’s health. However, further studies showed that it can also help certain medical conditions such as epilepsy, Crohn’s disease and muscle spasm, just to name a few.
  • Legalization of cannabis may decrease usage. The government sees a possible decrease in usage once tax is implemented over cannabis trade.
  • It is believed that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco because “its effect is mostly euphoric and mild” compared to alcohol drinkers who turn themselves into maniacs and domestic abusers.

Conclusion

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome may probably affect the decision of other states in joining the rest of the country to legalize marijuana. While we see the benefits of this substance, lawmakers may be thinking of adding provisions to this law to protect medical cannabis users and to prevent them from further encouraging recreational marijuana use, for the sole purpose of avoiding the increase in risk of CHS.

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