About Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

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Marijuana Addiction Treatment

With the addictive substances available to almost anyone with a legitimate prescription, health problem or desire to get high, we often overlook the potential problematic occurrences associated with the drug that many have told us is relatively safe: Marijuana. It’s been said that it’s impossible to overdose on pot, but new medical science may be offering us a different opinion, especially with the cases of what’s called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. To be fair the science hasn’t quite caught up to the number of reported cases we’re hearing about, and it should also be noted that the World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases has not chosen to list this syndrome as of yet. Essentially the condition is caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to marijuana, usually in the form of smoking a joint, or should I say “joints” as the illness seems to be caused by a large quantity of cannabis being consumed on a frequent basis. The illness is characterized by recurrent nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst and colicky abdominal pain. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome has been, in the past, mistaken as another syndrome known as Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome due to the rarity and lack of understanding of the condition. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is considered a rare condition for the time being and is even being called a certain form of Cannabinoid toxicity. Interestingly enough many frequent smokers who have experienced CHS state that hot showers and warm baths have alleviated their symptoms temporarily. In fact cannabis users who plan on continuing their smoking habits often become obsessive about taking hot showers and baths quite frequently, or in fact far more often than they normally would.

The disease was first documented in Australia more than a decade ago and an intensive study was conducted to effectively identify the syndrome as well as compare it to Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome (or illness).

The hypothesis, testing procedure and conclusion are as follows:

Background and aims: To explore the association between chronic cannabis abuse and a cyclical vomiting illness that presented in a series of cases in South Australia.

Methods: Nineteen patients were identified with chronic cannabis abuse and a cyclical vomiting illness. For legal and ethical reasons, all patients were counselled to cease all cannabis abuse. Follow up was provided with serial urine drug screen analysis and regular clinical consultation to chart the clinical course. Of the 19 patients, five refused consent and were lost to follow up and five were excluded on the basis of confounders. The remaining nine cases are presented here and compared with a published case of psychogenic vomiting.

Results: In all cases, including the published case, chronic cannabis abuse predated the onset of the cyclical vomiting illness. Cessation of cannabis abuse led to cessation of the cyclical vomiting illness in seven cases. Three cases, including the published case, did not abstain and continued to have recurrent episodes of vomiting. Three cases rechallenged themselves after a period of abstinence and suffered a return to illness. Two of these cases abstained again, and became and remain well. The third case did not and remains ill. A novel finding was that nine of the 10 patients, including the previously published case, displayed an abnormal washing behaviour during episodes of active illness.

Conclusions: We conclude that chronic cannabis abuse was the cause of the cyclical vomiting illness in all cases, including the previously described case of psychogenic vomiting.

The study also states that the average duration of cannabis use before the onset of symptoms from CHS is roughly 16 years and that the shortest period of time that has been documented for the syndrome to kick in was 3 years. An article on the High Times website also points out that for the most part the syndrome is brought on by cannabis users who smoke three to five times per day for many years before the appearance of symptoms, three to five times a day is considered a heavy smoker by most standards.

The discovery and recent documentation of CHS brings into sharp relief the anti-nausea properties that many cannabis users rely on, specifically those with eating disorders and debilitating illnesses like cancer where it is often difficult to work up an appetite due to the strain on the body as a result of the two main treatments for cancer. High Times refers to the contradicting bodily reactions as “paradoxical” in light of the new evidence and contradictions. In an article written by “Sirius J” he provides an example of another way sufferers of CHS deal with their chronic symptoms. He claims that many cannabis users simply increase the amount of weed they consume in order for one known property (antiemetic) to eliminate the other (nausea and vomiting). Mr. “Sirius J” also believes that while all this new evidence related to CHS is being brought into the public eye, in his opinion it should be noted that cannabis remains the safest recreational substance available and that yes, people should be aware of CHS and it’s symptoms but if someone experiences these symptoms it is in fact quite rare and the solution is quite simple: Stop smoking.

It may not be welcome news that the only way to do away with this condition is to completely stop smoking altogether, currently that is the only definitive way to stop the painful symptoms for good. Some classify CHS as something likened to being allergic to weed, others blame the receptors in the body that process the chemicals in cannabis, but the end result is the same. The body is no longer dealing or processing the marijuana as it used to and while there may be a period of “detoxing” after cessation of use and you may experience extreme thirst and a significant drop in appetite but it is vital that you try to eat anyway to prevent malnutrition during the process of detoxing. It is important to know that there are programs and groups that can help you deal with the physical and psychological aspects of your cannabis addiction and that sobriety is not beyond your reach.