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What Exactly Is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)?


Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a relatively new condition that has garnered more attention in the medical community in recent years. CHS results from chronic marijuana use and is characterized by cyclic episodes of nausea and vomiting. It is one of the marijuana dangers resulting from overuse. While the cause of this condition is still being studied, it is thought that the cannabinoids found in marijuana may be to blame. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to speak with your doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.


What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?


To understand cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system can be a bridge between body and mind. To put it simply, cannabinoids are chemical compounds found naturally in the human body and the weed plant. Cannabinoids act on cannabinoid receptors; these receptors can be found throughout our bodies but are most prevalently located within the brain and digestive system.


This system is responsible for helping to regulate everyday functions like appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory function. When cannabinoids are introduced into the body in external forms like when weed is consumed for medicinal or recreational purposes, they can influence this system. This also means that when an individual consumes THC in excess, it may lead to imbalances in cannabinoid levels. This significantly affects health of many marijuana users, especially teen health.


Who might get CHS?


Typically, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is seen in heavy users of marijuana. It has been most prevalent amongst individuals who have consumed weed frequently for years. However, it can also affect new users who begin consuming THC in large quantities at once.


An interesting finding is that cannabinoids may also be effective in treating nausea and vomiting. This suggests that those individuals with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome may only experience the symptoms of nausea and vomiting when they stop using weed.


How common is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?


CHS is a relatively common condition, but it appears most prevalent amongst individuals who consume weed daily. Studies have shown that roughly 11% of chronic users of weed meet the diagnostic criteria for this syndrome and that over 90% of those who choose to abstain experience symptom resolution within four weeks of quitting.


What causes cannabis hyperemesis syndrome?


The exact cause of CHS is still under debate. The leading theory suggests that those with this condition have become accustomed to high concentrations of THC in their system, and when the cannabinoid content decreases, they experience symptoms as a result.


The ECS has been shown to play a part in the function of the digestive system. It is believed that those with CHS may have an impaired ECS, resulting in heightened sensitivity to cannabinoids and lower tolerance levels for THC consumption.


What are the symptoms of CHS?


There are three primary symptoms associated with CHS. These include:


• Persistent Nausea. This manifests as severe stomach pain and is accompanied by vomiting. Some of those with CHS complain of the urge to vomit, even after they have already vomited.

• Abdominal Discomfort. Those with this syndrome may experience cramps and discomfort in the abdominal region - again, this can lead to nausea and vomiting. They often describe their symptoms as similar to those experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy.

• Chills and Diaphoresis. Symptoms of chills and diaphoresis are relatively common amongst those with CHS. However, they may also experience other symptoms not mentioned here, including headache, fatigue, halitosis (bad breath), or low-grade fever.


People with CHS do not typically experience the same symptoms all of the time because cannabinoid levels may change over time, leading to varying effects.


There are 3 cannabis hyperemesis syndrome phases:


• Prodromal Phase: This occurs just before the onset of symptoms. During this phase, the most common symptom is nausea, although some may experience vomiting.

• Hyperemetic Phase: This is the primary phase experienced by those with CHS. It is typically the most severe and includes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and cramping.

• Recovery Phase: Depending on how much THC an individual consumes before stopping their use, this may cause significant withdrawal symptoms - seizures are not uncommon during this period. These can last for several days, though most individuals report having fully recovered within 4 weeks.


How is CHS diagnosed?


CHS is primarily diagnosed using the clinical history of an individual. If they meet the diagnostic criteria, they may be asked to cease using cannabinoids for an extended period - typically 4 weeks.


Those with CHS often report that their symptoms are similar to those experienced during food poisoning or gastroenteritis (stomach infection). Thus, they may be prescribed medications intended to treat these conditions.


However, if their symptoms continue for an extended period after stopping weed use, they may undergo laboratory tests to determine a biological basis. This may include checking cannabinoid levels in the blood and urine and undergoing imaging studies (e.g., ultrasound).


Is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome permanent?


The good news for those with this syndrome is that it tends to resolve itself within a relatively short period. As discussed, many sufferers have reported full recovery after 4 weeks.


In some cases, the condition may be longer-lasting, and in others, individuals may experience recurring bouts of nausea and vomiting over several months.


Can I treat CHS symptoms at home?


For many people, simple home remedies are sufficient for relieving the symptoms of CHS. For example, it may be helpful to increase fluid intake (e.g., water), avoid spicy foods, and not eat until their stomach is feeling better.


Some individuals have reported taking hot baths or showers for symptom relief, although this has not been proven to be of any therapeutic benefit.

At this time, there is no standard treatment available for the treatment of CHS. This is because most research has focused on its causes and mechanisms rather than treating it.


Some medications can also help relieve CHS symptoms. For instance, healthcare providers recommend:


1) Antihistamines - to reduce cramping and abdominal pain.

2) Antiemetics - to relieve vomiting episodes.

3) Benzodiazepine-receptor antagonists - to help with the detoxification process, including reduced nausea and potentially reduced seizures.


These medications have side effects, so you should discuss this with your healthcare provider to determine which one(s) may be most appropriate for you.


How does cannabis hyperemesis syndrome relate to cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?


Many people report having experienced nausea and vomiting after using cannabinoids (e.g., marijuana, hashish) for an extended period; however, this is not always due to CHS.


There are three reasons for this:


1) Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome is much more common than cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

2) many other conditions may cause similar symptoms; for instance, chronic ingestion of potentially harmful substances (e.g., alcohol, toxic chemicals).

3) Those experiencing CHS typically report hot water preference and seek relief with hot showers.

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Hi! I'm Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds

I write many of the articles here on Cannaquit and make sure I personally review every piece of information that appears on the site, so as to make sure you are getting facts and information supported by evidence.

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