Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Can Cannabis Make You Sick?

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It may seem paradoxical that cannabis — which is often used to treat nausea and vomiting — can cause Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) in some users. Yet some chronic cannabis users may develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (also sometimes called “Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome,” a condition that causes persistent vomiting, seemingly endless vomiting episodes, and severe abdominal pain. In this article, you’ll learn more about what the symptoms are, why CHS only occurs in some individuals, how to determine if you have CHS, and what the stages of the condition are.

What Are The Symptoms of CHS?

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome nauseous man

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is an episodic condition, meaning it comes and goes. The most obvious symptom of CHS is vomiting sessions lasting between 24 and 48 hours, followed by asymptomatic periods that can last weeks or months.

During an episode, patients will experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain that can’t be relieved with conventional treatments (e.g., ondansetron, promethazine, and metoclopramide)
  • Dehydration
  • Disorientation
  • Extended periods of nausea and vomiting — up to 20 times per day
  • Severe nausea and intractable vomiting
  • Unintentional weight loss

According to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, researchers identified the major diagnostic characteristics of CHS patients:

  • Abdominal pain (85.1%)
  • At least weekly cannabis use, but usually much more (97.4%)
  • Chronic cannabis use for more than a year (74.8%)
  • Severe nausea and vomiting (100%)
  • Symptoms go away after patients stop using cannabis (96.8%)
  • Men are more likely to suffer from CHS — men represented 72.9 percent of patients in the study

Why Does Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Occur Only in Some Cannabis Users?

The answer to this question remains a mystery, although there are a few proposed explanations:

  • Genetics: Individuals who get CHS may have a genetic or immune vulnerability;
  • Long-Term Excessive Use of Cannabis: With rare exception, most everyone who develops CHS have been using cannabis for a long time, and often;
  • Digestive Tract: Our digestive tract contains many molecules that bind to THC that cannabis use can affect. In some people, long-term cannabis use may alter the way their molecules respond, which could lead to CHS.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome nauseous woman

How Do You Know You Have CHS?

There are two indicators that suggest a person has CHS:

  • Nausea and vomiting that go away (temporarily) after the patient takes a hot bath, shower, or medicates with capsaicin (an active component of chili peppers). No other vomiting condition we know reverses itself due to heat;
  • Symptoms cease and don’t recur after a sustained period of abstinence. If cessation of cannabis use doesn’t eliminate CHS, the patient may have a different type of cyclic vomiting condition.

Keep in mind that the severity and length of time a patient suffers from symptoms can vary dramatically among those with CHS.

What Are The Stages of CHS?

There are three stages of CHS symptoms:

Phase 1: Prodromal Phase

This phase can last anywhere from months to years. During this phase, a patient will generally experience nausea and abdominal pain when they wake up in the morning.

During this phase, most patients can still maintain their regular eating patterns. However, many patients up their cannabis use, thinking the cannabis will cure their nausea and vomiting. It’s obviously paradoxical that cannabis (which many patients use to get rid of nausea and vomiting) could cause it others.

Phase 2: Hyperemetic phase

During the hyperemetic phase, patients will experience persistent nausea, abdominal pain, reduced appetite and food intake, dehydration, and ongoing vomiting episodes. Vomiting during this phase can be overwhelming and may persist until the patient stops their cannabis use.

Phase 3: Recovery phase

During this phase — which can last between days to months — the patient’s appetite goes back to normal, and they no longer experience symptoms. Symptoms will likely return if the patient resumes cannabis use.

Final Thoughts: Treating Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Clearly, Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is no joke for those suffering from it. Fortunately, it can be treated. Unfortunately, the only long-term solution is for a patient to stop using cannabis, permanently. Also, as we noted earlier, patients can find short-term relief by taking a hot shower, a bath, or by using a topical capsaicin cream.

Would you like to know more about medical cannabis? We’d love to help. Schedule an appointment and we can help you become a registered Medical Cannabis Patient in Maryland.

Most Medical Cannabis is Used as Pain Relief

medical cannabis statistics

For people who depend on cannabis to live a high-quality life, it will come as no surprise that the most common reason Americans use this plant is to treat pain. A new study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Michigan looked at cannabis use as a treatment for a long list of health issues to see exactly why people are turning to it for medicine, among other medical cannabis statistics. They found that almost two-thirds of patients are using cannabis for chronic pain.

Unfortunately, cannabis is still a Schedule I drug according to the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which makes it difficult to conduct nationwide studies on cannabis users. This study was designed to understand medical cannabis statistics in states where it’s legally allowed. They wanted to see if patients are using cannabis for evidence-based, medically approved reasons. Here’s what they found.

Medical Cannabis Statistics in the US

medical cannabis statistics US

The researchers analyzed data from the 15 states that report the reasons for the patient’s medical cannabis use. They found that chronic pain, which is defined as pain that lasts beyond a few months, is the most common reason people choose to use medical cannabis. A large number of patients also report using medical cannabis to treat the stiffness associated with multiple sclerosis and nausea that comes with chemotherapy.

These findings are in line with a large number of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, which is estimated to be over 100 million people. They are also consistent with solid scientific evidence that cannabis works as an effective treatment for pain.

The researchers looked at symptoms and conditions that have been proven to be alleviated by cannabis based on a report by the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine. They found that 85 percent of the patients use cannabis for reasons that are supported by conclusive or substantial evidence.

Removing the Stigma of Cannabis

The researchers said that their findings don’t support the current status of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, which classifies it has having no medical benefits and a high potential for abuse. This scheduling puts it in the same category as heroin and cocaine, despite it being legal in 10 states and approved for medical use in 33 states.

medical cannabis statistics researcher looking at plant

The researchers argue that it’s time for the federal government to figure out how to properly regulate cannabis and incorporate it into medical practice in a safe way. Until these changes are put in place, there will continue to be no clinical guidelines for medical cannabis like there are for traditional prescription drugs.

What’s on the Horizon?

While the current federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance is frustrating, there is hope on the horizon. According to polls by the Pew Research Center, six out of 10 Americans want to fully legalize cannabis. That’s 62% of the US voting population. A whopping 84% believe that cannabis has health benefits and should be available for medical use.

medical cannabis statistics greenhouse

With the rise in cannabis awareness, education, and support — and with positive medical cannabis statistics — we are hopefully on our way to living in a country where cannabis is available to everyone who needs it.

Ready to learn more about how you can access cannabis? Schedule an appointment for help becoming a registered Maryland Medical Cannabis Patient.

Can Cannabis Help With Brain Trauma?

cannabis for brain trauma

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects 1.7 million people in the US every year and is one of the leading causes of death in young people. TBI is usually triggered by concussions from things like falls, car accidents, and violent sports like football. Many who survive head injuries end up with permanent neurological and behavioral impairment, learning and memory problems, post-traumatic seizures, and lower life expectancy.

Unfortunately, the treatment for TBI is limited, and there are only a few pharmaceutical options. But thanks to scientific research and lots of personal accounts from medical cannabis patients, there is hope on the horizon. Let’s take a look at why cannabis for brain trauma may become the next go-to treatment.

Cannabis for Brain Trauma

Scientists are encouraged by the possibility of treating neurological conditions like autism and epilepsy with cannabis, and it looks like cannabis can offer hope to people who have endured head trauma as well.

cannabis for brain trauma scans

A 2014 article published in American Surgeon looked at how cannabis use affected those who suffered TBI. It reported that a positive screening for THC was associated with decreased mortality in patients who experienced TBI.  According to this study done by UCLA Medical Center researchers, individuals afflicted with TBI who also consume cannabis are more likely to live longer and less likely to die than TBI patients who abstain.

But how do cannabinoids like THC and CBD provide neuroprotection?

Plant cannabinoids can augment and mimic the cannabinoids that mammals produce internally called endocannabinoids. They are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) that regulates some brain processes that are important in TBI, like inflammation, neuroplasticity, and blood flow to the brain.

The ECS is equipped with what is described as a self-protection mechanism. It will kick in as a response to trauma like TBI or a stroke. Endocannabinoid levels in the brain will spike when the brain is traumatized, activating cannabinoid receptors to begin healing. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD can activate the same receptors and offer similar healing effects.

The Power of CBD

CBD is such a versatile medicine that it is known as a “promiscuous compound,” producing a number of benefits through many different pathways. It’s very active against a condition called brain ischemia, where there isn’t enough blood flow to the brain. It has also been shown to reduce brain damage and promote recovery in animal models of TBI and stroke.

What’s really appealing about CBD is that it doesn’t produce intoxicating effects like THC, and it doesn’t lead to tolerance.

The benefits of CBD are well known among boxers, football players, and other athletes who have experienced a brain injury. Professional football players are turning to CBD as a way to prevent chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease linked to repeated head injuries. CTE causes aggression, depression, dementia, and even suicide.

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Prevention is crucial when it comes to CTE because there is no way to diagnose it while the patient is alive. So many NFL players are turning to cannabis to protect the health of their brain as well as alleviate pain and inflammation. While more research is needed to determine whether this is helpful, we always find it exciting to learn about new uses for cannabis.

Are you ready to find out more about how cannabis for brain trauma can benefit you? Stop by or schedule an appointment. Our staff is happy to help!