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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

By Varsha Pappachan

It is a commonly known fact that over a period of many years, the cases of substance use disorder have drastically increased. A substance use disorder refers to the usage or over usage of one or more substances that eventually result in clinical or chronic disorders and can even be fatal at times.

The most commonly used substance is alcohol, while there are other substances too such as heroin, opium, cocaine, marijuana, commonly called as weed, etc.

Through this article, let us understand the disorder caused by the heavy usage of marijuana or weed, scientifically known as Cannabis. It is a psychoactive drug prepared with a plant named cannabis, which is native to the central & south Asia. The peculiarity of marijuana lies in the fact that it may be called both as an emetic (that causes vomiting) and anti-emetic (that ceases vomiting). It is used both as a recreational substance and as a medicine.

Now, what does chronic usage of marijuana lead to? Well, the condition is known as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome or CHS which includes periodic bouts of nausea, vomiting, followed by dehydration. Following is important information related to CHS:

What Exactly Causes It?

As per various tests and studies, the CHS is mainly caused due to the chronic and extreme usage of marijuana.

People consuming marijuana may do so by various methods such as smoking, hand-pipes, water-pipes, rolling papers, hookahs, vaporization, oral methods, or even topical methods. The severity of the CHS majorly depends on the overall period for which an individual may have been using marijuana. Any kind of acute episodes of CHS usually last for upto 48 hours and further deterioration could be easily tackled by voluntarily stopping the usage of marijuana completely.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome:

The main symptoms could be nausea, vomiting as frequent as upto 5 times within an hour, possible abdominal pain and dehydration along with tremendous weight-loss. Some other symptoms may include body ache, mild fever, sweating, anxiety, etc. It may be tricky to determine or differentiate the symptoms of CHS with any other abdominal allergies or even food poisoning or any such disorder with similar symptoms. In such a case, there may arise a possibility that the CHS gets wrongly diagnosed or undiagnosed!

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome:

Before we can understand the diagnosis or cure for Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, we must understand the various phases of it. The first phase, known as the Prodromal phase, typically lasts to upto two weeks (sometimes upto months or even years for some people). The affected patient could develop a strong disliking to food, and end up experiencing nausea or even vomiting, along with possible weight-loss.

The second phase called as the Hyperemetic phase is more clearer, with the symptoms of the Prodromal phase becoming more predominant. During this phase, the severity of the nausea and frequency of vomiting drastically increase, giving rise to acute abdominal pain. A hot shower or bath during the Hyperemetic phase helps temporarily ease out the effects. The final phase of CHS is called the Recovery phase, during which the symptoms usually start receding.

In fact, the recovery starts in full throttle by completely restraining from the consumption of marijuana. It is important to note that in case the marijuana usage is resumed, there are strong chances of the symptoms reoccurring. Discontinuation of marijuana is the most effective and reliable treatment.

Majorly, the treatment of CHS is still being explored. However, there are a few alternatives that could be tried to help reduce the problem. For instance, to make up for the loss of fluids in the body, one could consume electrolytes in abundance. Certain stomach-acid reduction related drugs, referred to as anti-emetics, could be another option. These anti-emetics help ease the motion sickness, gastroenteritis, dehydration, etc., and may be administered in oral tablet or capsule form or in an injection.

In a nutshell, the first and foremost way to resolve problems caused due to CHS is to completely stop the usage of marijuana. The second most reliable and popular method is taking hot showers or hot baths that are extremely effective in relieving the symptoms such as body ache, nausea, etc.

Although, the cure by hot baths varies for each patient. For some, it may provide an instant relief and positive effects that stay on for some time. And for the others, the relief is only until they are in the shower, and the symptoms return as soon as they come out of the shower!

Furthermore, the replenishment of electrolytes or fluids in the body or administration of appropriate medication by the medical doctor helps diminish the adverse effects caused by the CHS.

Whatever method of cure is suggested by the doctor, it is most important for the patient to realize that these symptoms could occur and reoccur as per their usage of marijuana in the long term. Therefore, it is mandatory to understand the bad effects of overusing it.

Also, instead of indulging in self-medication, it is most advisable to consult a medical practitioner for the right kind of advice to tackle CHS, and to make sure that the symptoms do not come back!

Story first published: Friday, May 4, 2018, 11:29 [IST]
Read more about: cannabis marijuana health