Laws permitting some type of marijuana use have been on the books since 1996, when California first legalized the sale and consumption of medicinal pot. Today more than 25 states allow for medicinal marijuana and among those, eight have legalized recreational marijuana.
Generally speaking, advocates have argued marijuana use came with little to no negative physical side effects, until now.
Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is an often-misunderstood marijuana induced sickness. But in Colorado, research shows cases doubled after the federal government announced it would not prosecute states allowing marijuana use.
Dr. Kennon Heard, a physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora and co-author of a study published in 2015, says it’s likely CHS wasn’t diagnosed earlier because patients didn’t want to admit to use of the illegal drug.
“Patients often present to the emergency room three, four, five different times before we can sort this out,” Heard tells CBS News. He added that, “It is certainly something that before legalization we almost never saw. Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”
What are the 3 Phases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?
Earlier research conducted at Temple University and published in 2013 concluded Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome tends to affect younger adults with a long history of heavy marijuana use and usually occurs in three phases:
- Morning sickness
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and fear of vomiting
- Regular vomiting, nausea and retching that can last for hours at a time, which causes dehydration
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Habitual or obsessive bathing and showering with hot water
- Treatment is given for symptoms of dehydration, but the only way to recover from CHS is by ceasing or severely cutting back marijuana use
The habitual or obsessive showers and baths are a CHS diagnosis tip-off for physicians. Though scientists are unsure why, bathing or showering in hot water relieves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Some experts believe a hot shower restores the thermoregulatory balance in the brain that regular cannabis abuse effects. This, however, is just a theory.
It’s ironic that some people wake up and use marijuana to offset morning sickness, when in fact, the marijuana is the root cause of their morning sickness. They then take a hot shower as part of their daily routine and the shower actually reduces the morning sickness symptoms. Because they mistakenly correlate the cannabis with feeling better and not the shower, they continue to use marijuana for relief.
Why Don’t We Have More Studies About CHS and Marijuana?
Because the federal government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I Substance – considered to have no medicinal use – it’s difficult for researchers to conduct studies on the effects of regular, long-term use of the drug.
The lack of long-term studies on marijuana use leaves many questions unanswered. Among the skeptics of CHS are physicians that specialize in treating patients with cannabis as a means of relieving symptoms of nausea and increasing appetite, most especially for those receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
One argument is that symptoms of CHS are a reaction to chemicals, such as pesticides, used in growing marijuana. Again, though, this is just another theory.
An August 2016 Gallup Poll reports that one in eight adults in the U.S. – 33 million people – say they smoke marijuana. With the increase of states allowing some type of pot use, diagnoses of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome are likely to spike.
On the plus side, the cure is simple. Patients that stop ingesting marijuana see a full recovery in days or weeks.
Read More on the Effects of Marijuana