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August 2019

What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabis is now legal in a growing number of states. As more states continue to decriminalize cannabis, more people have access to cannabis products. Increased access to these products, coupled with the popular notion that cannabis is safe and might be beneficial, has led to an increased frequency of chronic use. Chronic or “regular” use of cannabis is concerning for many doctors, as it’s been linked with a condition known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). Most people haven’t heard of this condition, but it appears to be more common than previously thought.

A recent review shows that cannabis-related ER visits at one hospital in Colorado, where cannabis was legalized in 2014, tripled between 2012 and 2016. The most common reason? CHS. CHS is a condition that leads to severe, repeated bouts of nausea and vomiting. These attacks are unique because they don’t respond to typical anti-nausea medicine, and patients often have a strong desire to take scalding hot showers for relief. But these hot showers only mask symptoms and can lead to dehydration and possibly kidney damage. It’s unclear if CHS is related to eating cannabis products, smoking cannabis, or both. But the ONLY long-term cure is to quit using ALL cannabis products completely, including CBD.

It’s not entirely clear why some people suddenly react to cannabis this way after years of regular use. But since CHS can lead to even more serious complications, it’s important that patients who are considering cannabis for any medical use be counseled about this possible risk. For many conditions, this risk might outweigh any potential benefit. It’s also important to explain to patients that cannabis use might worsen certain pre-existing health conditions. To find out more about which disease states may be worsened by cannabis use, check out the recently updated Interactions with Diseases section of our cannabis monograph.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2022 Natural Medicines Inc. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. Natural Medicines is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.