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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome
Very heavy edibles and extracts consumers run the risk of side effects like cyclic vomiting, called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. (cosmaa/iStock)

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a medical condition believed to be connected to heavy, chronic cannabis use. It is characterized by episodes of nausea and vomiting, which may be relieved by hot baths and showers or by discontinuing cannabis use. Very little is known about this condition, including its causes, but researchers hypothesize that an oversaturation of cannabinoid receptors in the body could lead to these complications. Others suspect that certain pesticides used in cannabis cultivation might be the cause.

“My friend has been getting sick regularly and thinks it might be Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome.”

“If you think you have Cannabinoid Hyperemesis syndrome, try quitting weed for a while.”

What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a proposed medical condition linked to heavy, regular cannabis consumption. However, its causes are unknown. The signature symptoms of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome seem to be temporarily relieved by hot baths and showers, suggesting that temperature may play a role in regulation.

The condition is split into three phases: the prodromal phase, the hyperemetic phase, and the recovery phase. 

  • The prodromal phase refers to the months or years before the acute cyclical vomiting phase where the individual experiences mild symptoms like morning sickness, abdominal pain, and nausea. 
  • In the hyperemetic phase, the individual experiences intensified symptoms that may include long episodes of nausea and vomiting, frequent retching, weight loss, dehydration, and abdominal pain. It is in this phase where individuals habitually bathe or shower to relieve symptoms. 
  • The individual enters the recovery phase after ceasing cannabis use, and typically symptoms ease in a matter of days, weeks, or months.

What are the symptoms of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is characterized by a series of symptoms that may change depending on whether the individual is in the prodromal, hyperemetic, or recovery phase of the condition.

In the early phase of CHS, the individual may experience more subtle abdominal pain and nausea, especially in the morning. The condition seems to intensify over the course of months or years, and symptoms may escalate to more debilitating nausea, episodic vomiting, abdominal pain, weight loss, and dehydration. One hallmark characteristic of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is the alleviation of these acute symptoms with hot baths or showers.

How to treat Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Because so little is known about Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome and its causes, few treatment approaches have been developed. If you are experiencing symptoms of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, the most common advice is to stop using cannabis and see if your symptoms resolve in the following days, weeks, or months. This seems to be the most effective way to completely resolve symptoms.

Although research has not established a clear link between CHS and pesticides, some recommend avoiding cannabis that has been treated with pesticides, as some individuals may have more adverse reactions to certain chemical treatments.