Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a rare condition that develops in people who use cannabis frequently over a period of several years. Treatment involves stopping cannabis use and symptom management.

Severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain are the hallmark symptoms of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). The word “cannabinoid” refers to compounds uniquely found in cannabis, and “hyperemesis” means severe vomiting.

Researchers have only recently discovered CHS, so some doctors or healthcare professionals may not recognize the condition.

If it’s not treated, CHS can lead to health complications. The only treatment that can get rid of CHS symptoms for good is to stop using cannabis completely. But there are some other treatments that may help manage your symptoms and make you feel better.

This article will explain the causes of CHS and the available treatment options.

CHS is related to long-term, regular cannabis use. Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what causes CHS in some people who regularly use cannabis but not others.

It’s also thought that some of the active substances in cannabis, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals, may bind to receptors in your digestive tract and cause changes that could lead to CHS. THC is the same substance that binds to receptors in your brain and causes a “high.”

Experts believe only a fraction of habitual cannabis users develop CHS. But because CHS is a somewhat newly discovered condition that was first diagnosed in 2004, some people may be underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

One study found up to 6% of people who went to the emergency room for cyclical vomiting had CHS.

Common symptoms of CHS typically include:

People with CHS may vomit often, up to five times per hour. They usually have a history of regular cannabis use.

CHS symptoms typically present in a cyclical pattern every few weeks to months when cannabis is being used. The problems usually go away when cannabis use is stopped.

Severe CHS symptoms can lead to dehydration. Get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • confusion, disorientation
  • trouble with walking or movement
  • fast heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • dizziness, lightheadedness
  • fainting

The only way to stop CHS and its symptoms is to completely quit using cannabis. Most people who quit using cannabis experience no more CHS symptoms within 10 days, but sometimes it may take weeks or months for symptoms to stop. Symptoms of CHS likely won’t return if you’ve completely stopped using cannabis.

There are currently no treatment guidelines to address symptoms of CHS. But some therapies may help ease symptoms. These include:

Symptoms will usually improve after 1 or 2 days, as long as you don’t use cannabis during this time.

The importance of quitting cannabis with CHS

In one study, about 84% of people who received treatment for CHS stopped using cannabis, and of those, about 86% reported resolution of symptoms.

Drug rehab programs or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be helpful resources for quitting cannabis.

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Doctors typically diagnose CHS by studying your symptoms. If you use cannabis often and frequently experience vomiting and nausea, you should tell a healthcare professional.

Many types of health conditions can cause repeated vomiting. To diagnose CHS, a healthcare professional will study your symptoms and ask you questions. They’ll also examine your abdomen and may order tests to rule out other causes of vomiting.

These tests may include:

Frequent vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause complications such as:

Additionally, recurrent vomiting may cause:

The only way to prevent CHS is to avoid using cannabis. If you do use cannabis, quitting can ward off future episodes of CHS.

Not using cannabis may also result in other health benefits, including:

  • better quality sleep
  • improved lung function
  • improved memory and thinking skills
  • a lower risk of depression and anxiety

CHS is a rare condition that affects some habitual cannabis users. It causes severe bouts of vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain. Certain therapies, such as taking hot showers or using prescription medications, may help relieve symptoms.

While symptoms can be managed, the only way to stop CHS for good is to quit using cannabis in any form. Addiction rehab programs or CBT may be helpful resources for quitting cannabis. Speak with a doctor or healthcare professional if you or someone you know has symptoms of CHS.