Vomiting Illness May Be Linked to Long-Term Marijuana Use
Doctors say they’re seeing more cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. They think the legalization of medical marijuana may be tied to the trend.
An uncommon but serious ailment brought on by chronic marijuana use is showing up more frequently in states where the drug has been legalized.
Doctors are trying to get the word out.
Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) falls under the umbrella of a condition known as cyclical vomiting.
It’s described as recurrent, severe bouts of vomiting and nausea.
“It’s the worse stomach flu you’ve ever had,” Dr. Kennon Heard, a professor of emergency medicine at Colorado State University, told Healthline.
The pain can be severe.
“You think you are dying. You pray for death at some points because it hurts so bad. It’s just so unbearable,” Chalfonte Queen, who has CHS, recently told San Diego station NBC 7.
Some emergency room doctors have coined the term “scromiting,” a combination of screaming and vomiting, to describe CHS patients presenting at hospitals.
Diagnosing CHS can be difficult.
The distinction of CHS from other forms of cyclical vomiting only occurred in 2004 in Australia, where it was documented for the first time.
“It’s not like cancer, where we can do a biopsy,” said Heard. “This is really based on symptoms of recurrent vomiting and abdominal pain, no other explanation in a patient who is a frequent marijuana user.”
What’s clear to Heard, and to other doctors, is that CHS is appearing more frequently.
A doctor in San Diego at Scripps Mercy Hospital recently told news sources that they were seeing at least one patient a day for CHS.
But, as it appears to become more common, many are asking if this is a direct result of marijuana legalization.
That’s something Heard has investigated in his own research.
“We suspect the reason we were seeing this much less often 15 to 20 years ago was that it was a lot harder to get marijuana, and the marijuana that was available had a lower THC concentration or content,” he explained.
But the increased visibility of CHS among doctors may not mean that the ailment affects more people.
Legalization, explains Heard, has had a dual effect on both patients and doctors.
Patients have become more willing to discuss their marijuana usage with caregivers. That, in a roundabout way, has made CHS easier to diagnose.
Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also supports this theory.
“Increased anecdotal reports of this phenomenon are likely a result of greater awareness that such a phenomenon exists, but should not be conflated with the presumption that incidences of the phenomenon itself are necessarily becoming more common,” Armentano told Healthline.
Heard hopes that the increased visibility and awareness of the condition will lead to more individuals seeking treatment for it.
There’s a simple, effective treatment for CHS: Stop using marijuana.
Heard notes it still isn’t clear if marijuana usage must be ceased entirely, or if use can be moderated in order for the condition to go away.
For more casual, long-term users, that may be no big deal. But medical marijuana patients may find themselves in a double bind.
There’s still plenty of work to be done on CHS.
Although it’s become more visible, doctors still don’t have a solid grasp of why the ailment occurs.
Some have hypothesized that chronic, long-term use of marijuana affects the body’s cannabinoid receptors, which regulate the nervous system.
“The reality is that there are lots of opinions,” said Heard.
Until more is known about the disease, Heard simply wants people to be aware that it exists — and if you’re experiencing symptoms, that marijuana may be the cause.
Both he and other doctors have reported skepticism from patients on the diagnoses, with some individuals refusing to believe that marijuana has anything to do with their illness.
Both Heard and Armentano agree that CHS isn’t a major public health concern.
“This is not huge. It’s not tobacco smoke. It’s not drunk driving. But, if you’re the person affected by it, it’s huge,” said Heard.
“The message that we want out there is if you are having these symptoms, it may be related to your marijuana use and you should talk to your doctor. If it’s really disrupting your life, you need to consider that,” he added.Doctors say they’re seeing more cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. They think the legalization of medical marijuana may be tied to the trend.
I’m Sick. Should I Smoke Weed?
During cold and flu season, it can feel like there’s no escape from the sniffles, sore throats and piles of tissue. Some folks might be thinking about turning to weed to ease the aches and pains of a cold or flu. But is smoking weed a good idea when you’re feeling under the weather?
How does smoking cannabis affect healthy lungs?
If you’re experiencing respiratory symptoms, remember that smoking anything, including cannabis, causes irritation to the lungs. When you light cannabis on fire, the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant molecules combust and give off smoke that transports the molecules into your lungs and your bloodstream. With this smoke comes compounds produced by combustion that can be harmful to the lungs. Smoking damages the cells in your lungs that protect them against germs and dust, leading to more mucus production and the potential for bacterial infection. The increase of mucus also makes it easier for bacteria to grow and remain in the lungs. Lung issues such as bronchitis and pneumonia can turn into chronic issues with continued smoking.
How does smoking cannabis affect me when I’m sick?
If you feel like you have a cold or the flu, smoking weed really depends on personal preference. The consensus among doctors is that cannabis does not affect the common cold or flu. It can cause discomfort if you’re already irritated, but it can also soothe muscle aches and inflammation caused by flu or fever. Cannabis smoke has been shown to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects , both of which can help with fever aches and soothe a swollen throat. Smoking weed can also increase your appetite and help you sleep when rest is elusive.
While it’s up to personal experience whether smoking hurts or helps when you’re sick, there’s an increased risk of spreading your illness when smoking with others, particularly when you’re sharing a joint, bowl, or bong among a group. When all is said and done, you don’t need to smoke to cannabis to enjoy its benefits. If you have respiratory issues, consider tinctures or edibles in lieu of smoking.
Can I smoke cannabis with OTC medicine?
Most doctors recommend caution when using cannabis with over-the-counter remedies, as cannabis can sometimes worsen the existing effects of the medicine. These side-effects include dry mouth, sedation, blurry vision, and dizziness. Always consult your doctor before mixing cannabis with other medications.
Why do I get sick when I smoke cannabis?
Marijuana contains several active compounds, including THC, that bind to receptors in the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are present throughout the body, including the digestive tract and the esophageal sphincter, the band of muscle that allows food into the stomach from the esophagus. Long-term exposure to cannabis can change the way these receptors respond and lead to symptoms of a condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a condition that leads to severe, repeated bouts of vomiting and only occurs in long-term, daily users of cannabis. While the condition is rare, it can lead to abdominal pain, ongoing nausea, decreased food intake and symptoms of dehydration.
Many people take long showers or seek medical care when these symptoms arise, and they only stop when an individual completely stops using cannabis. The recovery phase can last days or months, and symptoms can often return if a person smokes marijuana again.
So, can I smoke weed when I’m sick?
The bottom line is that cannabis can better or worsen symptoms of illness depending on the consumption method you use and your body’s individual response. It’s best to consult your doctor if you’re considering consuming cannabis while sick. Also, consider your friends and family should you be thinking about partaking in a group session while you’re under the weather. Germs are easily spread when you share glass, joints and blunts.I’m Sick. Should I Smoke Weed? During cold and flu season, it can feel like there’s no escape from the sniffles, sore throats and piles of tissue. Some folks might be thinking about turning to ]]>