Cannabis use is side effect free, right? Wrong!
Although largely side effect free, heavy, long-term cannabis use can cause issues such as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (also known as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS). Although not understood at this point, CHS is characterized by an acute phase of vomiting, nausea, severe gastrointestinal discomfort and even weirdly, compulsive bathing. It’s no joke.
Research on the Syndrome
The first studies detailing this syndrome happened in 2004. In 7 out of 10 cases, the people who were suffering from the effects who then abstained from cannabis, saw everything clear up within days. The results of the small study concluded that although the effects come on suddenly, they can also be resolved equally as quick.
More studies are bound to be done on this topic in the coming years as more and more people are open about their cannabis use. Currently, the disorder is not recognized by many industry experts. At the moment, only cannabis doctors recognize the disorder as legitimate and dangerous.
How the Condition Works
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1. Prodromal Phase
Typically with this condition, months or even years before exhibiting any severe cyclical vomiting symptoms, the patient experiences:
- Morning sickness
- Abdominal pain and discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
Appetite is typically unaffected during this phase.
2. Hyperemetic Phase
As part of the acute phase of the illness, the hyperemetic period is characterized by an intensification of effects:
- Persistent nausea and vomiting that can last for hours at a time
- Frequent retching, up to five times an hour & Abdominal pain
- Weight loss & Dehydration
- Habitual bathing and/or showering
The compulsive bathing and showering is because hot temperatures relieve nausea and vomiting, both of which are associated with this phase of CHS.
3. Recovery Phase
This phase most often happens after the person has stopped using cannabis (this is really the only cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome “treatment” option). Within a few days, the patient is typically in a recovery mode that can last weeks or sometimes months. Once recovery has commenced, nausea ceases, appetite resumes, body weight is regained, and bathing/showering regimen returns to normal.
Why Does Cannabis Cause This?
The simple answer is that more research is needed. Although doctors have surmised that cannabis may cause activation of CB1 receptors (primarily by THC) which are known to result in the following gastrointestinal problems:
- Inhibition of gastric acid secretion
- Lower esophageal sphincter relaxation
- Altered intestinal motility
- Visceral pain & Inflammation