New Marijuana-Related Chronic Illness Is Emerging


As more states began to legalize marijuana for recreational use, there has also been a rise in a new marijuana-related illness.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome is a chronic disease with symptoms similar to stomach bugs. It was first discovered in Australia in 2004, according to a study released that year in the journal Gut, but it’s unclear how many people are suffering with the disorder either domestically or worldwide.

Dr. Kennon Heard, a Colorado-based ER doctor, co-authored a June 2015 study published in the Academy of Emergency Medicine, which showed that there has been an increase in CHS cases throughout Colorado since the state legalized pot. The District of Columbia, which also legalized recreational marijuana, has also reported several recent incidents of CHS.

Patients suffering with CHS often have recurring nausea, abdominal pain, cramps and vomiting. Dehydration and kidney failure have also been reported, although that typically goes away within days of not smoking pot. Patients often need several check-ups or ER visits before receiving the diagnosis, but once they do, the main remedy for alleviating symptoms is a hot shower.

“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” said Lance Crowder, a CHS patient, to CBS News. Crowder has been off all forms of marijuana for seven months and noticed significant improvements in his condition.

A September 2013 study, published in the journal Hospital Pharmacy, noted that acute episodes of CHS last for 24-48 hours. Significant improvements in condition often take one to three months to occur after a patient stops using cannabis. However, many people with CHS often relapse during this time due to smoking marijuana to alleviate the nausea symptoms associated with their chronic pot use.

However, CHS is often not accurately diagnosed in states where recreational marijuana is illegal. Heard noted that many patients in these states often don’t want to admit to using an illegal substance, while doctors often aren’t familiar with CHS.