As more states legalize cannabis, more people are learning whether cannabis is right for them.
Some may be finding that there can be very real — and serious — complications that come with cannabis use.
Many people use cannabis products to treat nausea. Ironically, one of the potential complications of long-term cannabis use is a condition called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). It causes severe nausea and vomiting.
CHS is still poorly understood. Researchers are trying to understand why some people develop it and others don’t. Right now, the only known effective treatment for CHS is to stop using cannabis.
It may sound like a made-up condition to discourage teenagers from trying cannabis, but CHS is very real — and it can be dangerous if not properly managed.
In this article, we’ll cover what CHS is, and explain how to identify it.
CHS is caused by cannabis use. It’s characterized by:
- recurrent vomiting
- abdominal pain
Compulsive bathing or showering in hot water to soothe nausea is also a hallmark sign of CHS.
CHS is a newly discovered condition. It wasn’t described in scientific literature
But a 2019 study concluded that it potentially accounts for up to
Research suggests that CHS is a permanent condition that can only be effectively treated by quitting cannabis. Continuing to use cannabis despite CHS can lead to potentially life threatening complications.
Regular, long-term cannabis use is the only known cause of CHS.
It’s thought that genetics may play a role because only a small number of people who regularly use cannabis develop CHS.
CHS is divided into
The prodromal phase can last for months, or even years in some cases. Symptoms are most common in
Symptoms can include:
- abdominal discomfort
- fear of vomiting
- early morning nausea
Vomiting is absent in this stage.
The hyperemetic phase is characterized by reoccurring and often overwhelming nausea and vomiting. Other symptoms can include:
- dry heaving
- decreased food intake
- food aversions
- white, watery secretions in vomit from lack of solid food
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
- compulsive bathing with hot water to ease symptoms
After stopping cannabis use, symptoms generally resolve within days or months. Reusing cannabis again often leads to a reoccurrence of CHS.
It’s still widely unknown how common CHS is or why it only develops in some people.
Cannabis is still illegal in many states and countries, so people in these areas may be hesitant to tell their doctor about their cannabis use.
In one 2018 study, a group of researchers surveyed 2,127 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 49 at an emergency department in New York. Of those surveyed, 155 met the criteria of smoking cannabis at least 20 days per month.
The researchers found that 32.9 percent of the participants reported having experienced symptoms of CHS in the past.
Using these results, researchers estimated that approximately 2.75 million U.S. adults may deal with CHS each year. However, much more research needs to be done to fully understand how often CHS occurs.
Researchers are continuing to examine potential treatment options for CHS. As of now, there are no standard treatment guidelines.
Stopping cannabis use is the only known way to permanently get rid of CHS. Symptoms may persist
Relief from symptoms
Many people experience temporary relief from their nausea and vomiting when bathing in hot water. Some people with CHS may compulsively bathe in hot water
Your doctor may recommend a number of other treatments to alleviate your symptoms along with quitting cannabis, such as:
- Capsaicin cream. A few
small case studiesfound that topical capsaicin may help manage symptoms.
- Antipsychotics. Antipsychotic medications, such as haloperidol or olanzapine, have provided people relief in
- Antihistamines. Benadryl and other antihistamines may be somewhat effective, but research is mixed.
- Intravenous (IV) solutions. If you become severely dehydrated or can’t handle oral fluid, you may need IV hydration.
- Pain-relieving medications. If your symptoms are accompanied by abdominal pain, your doctor may prescribe or recommend pain-relieving medication.
Keep in mind none of these treatments will be effective if you continue using cannabis products.
More research needs to be done to understand the long-term effects of CHS. However, chronic vomiting caused by CHS can lead to a number of potentially serious complications, such as:
- tooth decay
- electrolyte imbalances
- esophagus inflammation (esophagitis)
- Mallory-Weiss syndrome
A 2016 case study describes two deaths due to complications of CHS. The cause of death in both people was found to be hyponatremic dehydration, also known as low sodium levels.
Help quitting cannabis
If you need help quitting cannabis, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a 24/7 helpline in English and Spanish.
A representative can refer you to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
Even cannabis products that don’t contain THC have the potential to cause or worsen CHS.
It’s still not clear which of the more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis are responsible for CHS, but it’s
Until there’s more research, CBD shouldn’t be considered safe for people with CHS.
CHS is a condition caused by chronic and repeated cannabis use that leads to severe nausea and vomiting.
There’s still a lot about this condition that researchers don’t know, including how common it is and why it occurs in some people but not others.
At this time, the only known way to cure CHS is by quitting cannabis.