Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Need to Know

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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) appears in some chronic cannabis users. It presents as repeated nausea and vomiting to the point where it endangers you and your wellbeing.

CHS (also known as Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome) does not threaten every steady cannabis user. It may result from cannabis strain, dirty pipes and bongs, or an individual's predisposition to digestion problems. The vomiting aggravates intestinal cramps, exhausts bodily fluids, and taxes other systems, too.

Cedars of Sinai and other research institutions consider CHS occurrence rare. The occurrence of CHS is, nonetheless, ironic and counter-indicated because cannabis is known to have anti-emetic properties. Doctors have prescribed it for those fighting nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. However, it affects daily cannabis users who have used cannabis since their teen years when it occurs.

More about CHS

Experience shows that cannabis does not cause addiction or lead to death. However, the shadows lingering over cannabis use for a century or more have radically limited the research necessary to understand cannabis composition and effects fully.

We do know that the cannabis plant contains scores of identified cannabinoids. The best known include THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). These chemical properties bind to neuroreceptors throughout the brain and body. They account for most of the expected cannabis experiences for medicinal or recreational aims.

However, they also affect the digestive tract. For instance, cannabinoids influence the body’s smooth muscle structures. Usually, cannabis relaxes the smooth muscle to reduce intestinal or digestive cramps. In some rare cases, the cannabinoids will affect the esophageal sphincter through which food flows from the esophagus to the stomach. If it tightens, the stomach takes longer to process the food, and the liver metabolizes the intake more slowly. The theory holds that the longer the user consumes cannabis, the more likely the cannabinoid use will damage the related systems. Moreover, if the chronic use dates to the early teens, it may severely damage bodily systems and functions that have not fully developed.

What to do about CHS

CHS can creep up on you. You might think you have a stomach bug or seasonal flu. What distinguishes CHS is the severity of the pain and vomiting.

Diagnosticians look for three phases:

  1. The Prodromal Stage starts as morning stomach pain and nausea. This phase may last months or years, during which cannabis users continue to use without making the mental connection between use and symptoms. Ironically, some people continue to use thinking that cannabis will reduce the problem.

  1. The Hyperemetic Stage begins with repeated nausea and vomiting episodes. Abdominal pain precedes and follows each episode. Loss of appetite and weight mark severe cases of CHS.

People suffering CHS often self-medicate with over-the-counter antacids, but some increase their cannabis use, thinking it will remedy the problem. Others soak in hot tubs or take frequent hot showers to reduce the cramps and pain. However, as the vomiting accelerates and increases, they seek professional medical advice, fearing riskier health problems.

Diagnosed CHS patients may need intravenous fluids as therapy for the dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Prescribed benzodiazepines may reduce the attached anxiety. Research has recommended the administration of Haldol. And proton-pump inhibitors will reduce stomach inflammation.

  1. The Recovery Stage begins with the cessation of cannabis use. It requires hydration to replace lost fluids and, perhaps, therapy to change behavior. It may take months before the digestive system returns to normal.

Some people recovering from severe bouts of CHS will resume cannabis use. If their unique constitution does not restart the CHS episodes, they might continue with more moderate and less frequent cannabis use.

Anti-emetic cannabis strains

CHS occurs most frequently in those who have used cannabis daily for ten years or more. Still, there are cannabis strains with pronounced anti-emetic properties:

  • Blue Magoo is a 50/50 Sativa/Indica hybrid (16% THC: <1% CBD). This strain remains popular with cancer patients because it relieves nausea, appetite, pain, anxiety, and cancer treatment side effects.

  • Cannatonic boasts a perfectly balanced 8% THC and CBD. The potent CBD presence offsets the THC brain high with creativity and energy. The balance also treats muscle spasms, anxiety, loss of appetite, and nausea.

  • Pink Kush is an Indica-dominant hybrid (20% THC: <1% CBD). It boasts a pleasant taste and aroma as it treats anxiety, appetite, and nausea.

  • Strawberry Cough charts at 75% Indica and 25% Sativa. The users find relief from nausea and vomiting with a mild, long-lasting high.

  • Cinex provides the best in Sativa strains with 17% THC and <1% CBD. The Cinex strain treats anxiety, arthritic pain, autoimmune disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and spasticity.

These five strains represent only a small segment of cannabis strains used to combat nausea and vomiting. The complete list would include famous brands like Girl Scout Cookies, Critical Jack, and Pineapple Trainwreck.

CHS and you

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome occurs rarely. But when it does, it represents a potentially serious health condition. If you identify among those who have been using cannabis at least once a day for ten years or more, you are at risk. If this use began in your early adolescence, the risk increases.

The bad news is that the most immediate and longest-lasting therapy means ending cannabis use immediately and permanently. It should be clear here that you need medical attention if you recognize the symptoms of CHS.

However, you might research the cannabis strains you use to determine their reported effects on digestive and related systems.