In this disaster-prone moment in time, many of us are having a hard time relaxing. Some have turned to a time-tested stress reliever to chill out — smoking weed. But besides the usual cannabis-related side effects — like laughing too much at a cup that fell on the floor or eating all the Cheez-Its — some are finding that smoking weed makes them feel incredibly sick to their stomach. The name for this weed-induced puking phenom is cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) and it’s still pretty rare, but according to new research, cases are on the rise.
CHS isn’t new, but until recently, it was thought to be a fairly unusual condition, and a perplexing one since weed has historically been known to help ease nausea. The most common symptoms of CHS are nausea and vomiting — butt not just like a little throw up in your mouth; I’m talking uncontrollable, horror movie-style vom. A new study published last Friday in JAMA Network Open, though, found that between 2013 and 2018, there were over 800,000 cases of CHS. According to the research, instances of CHS reported in Colorado emergency rooms have increased by 29% in Colorado since weed was legalized in the state in 2014. Basically, this once uncommon illness is now pretty standard.
"This is not a rare problem," Sam Wang, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist and toxicologist at Children's Hospital Colorado and lead author on the study, told CNN. "When an adolescent comes in with cyclical abdominal pain and vomiting, my colleagues know to ask about cannabis use. It's a pretty common practice to see this and diagnose and treat it."
The symptoms of CHS sound legitimately terrible. "They vomit and then just continue to vomit whatever they have in their stomach, which can go on for hours," Wang told CNN. CHS is a literal buzzkill. Doctors can treat the symptoms of CHS with anti-nausea medication and fluids, but unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent it, aside from abstaining from cannabis use. Hot baths do seem, somewhat mysteriously, to help ease the symptoms of CHS for some people, but that doesn’t mean that you should just take a quick bath if you feel the signs of CHS because it could be life threatening if it isn’t treated, reported CNN.
Why the sudden uptick in cases of CHS? Well, doctors aren’t sure, but they hypothesize that it may have something to do with the increasing amounts of THC — short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that gets you high — in weed. THC concentrations have increased from around 4% to 5% in the 90’s, to 15% to 20% now, in Colorado, Wang told CNN. The good news is that not everyone is susceptible to CHS, but again, researchers aren’t sure why some people get it, and some people don’t.
Personally, I’m one of those people who likes the idea of smoking weed a lot more than I actually like smoking it, so given the whole uncontrollable vomiting situation, I’m probably going to skip the hit and take a pass on cannabis for now.