Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is an uncommon condition that only develops in people who use cannabis frequently over a period of several years.
Severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain are the hallmark symptoms of 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
One study found up to
Common symptoms of CHS typically include:
- persistent vomiting and nausea
- abdominal pain or cramping
- morning sickness
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
People with CHS may vomit often, up to five times per hour. They usually have a history of
CHS symptoms typically present in a cyclical pattern every
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
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:
- taking frequent hot showers or baths
- medications that help stop vomiting
- controlled prescription of benzodiazepine medication
- intravenous (IV) administration of the antipsychotic medication haloperidol
- application of capsaicin cream to the abdomen
- proton-pump inhibitors to help with stomach inflammation
- IV fluids to treat dehydration
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.
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:
- a CT scan or X-ray of your abdomen
- an upper endoscopy
- blood or urine tests
- a pregnancy test
Frequent vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can cause complications such as:
- muscle spasms
- muscle weakness
- kidney problems
- heart rhythm abnormalities
- brain swelling (in rare cases)
Additionally, recurrent vomiting may cause:
- tooth decay
- inflammation of your esophagus or tears in your esophagus
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.