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Excessive vomiting linked to prolonged and heavy marijuana use

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MDNovember 30, 2017

There have been some reports of chronic vomiting and retching due to long term marijuana use. In a new study, researchers find that long term heavy marijuana use especially in regions where marijuana is legalized, the cases of unexplained and difficult-to-treat vomiting and nausea are on the rise.

Cannabinnoid hyperemesis syndrome or CHS is now being acknowledged as a medical condition that affects very few individuals. Persons who smoke marijuana more than once a day for years or decades are typically at risk of CHS, the experts believe. This is also a speculation since it is not clearly known the exact underlying cause of this condition. The number of people with this condition is also not clear. In California and Colorado, the medical laws around cannabis use have been relaxed over the past few years. It has been seen that the number of people presenting with CHS is also on the rise in these regions.

Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency physician at the University of Colorado in Aurora recently published a study that connected the legalization of marijuana and increase in patients presenting with unexplained vomiting and nausea. Many of these patients are now being diagnosed with CHS as a sole diagnosis or as a part of other ailments.

At present there are no cures or treatment for this condition say experts. The doctors advise cannabis users to quit the habit to get better. There is a percentage of individuals who do not accept this causal link and continue smoking pot and their vomiting episodes continue say experts. When presented with a patient who is retching or vomiting due to marijuana use, anti-vomiting pills and medications are typically useless. These medications fail to control the vomiting. The patients usually need to be adequately hydrated intravenously and kept under hospital observations until the symptoms are abated.

According to emergency physicians, it is a difficult diagnosis to make a frustrating ailment to treat. To diagnose CHS, the other potential causes of regular vomiting need to be excluded and this may come at a cost. Other causes that may lead to similar symptoms include cancers. To rule out cancers costly investigations might be necessary explain researchers.

CHS has been documented in medical literature only in 2004 when it was reported in Australia. It is often misdiagnosed as other conditions that lead to similar vomiting and nausea. It was termed cyclic vomiting syndromes. Dr. Heard said, this is a condition unknown to doctors even five years back. Now the diagnosis is being made more easily than before as the possibility of the condition being CHS is there in the physician’s mind. The study reports that between 2006 and 2014, the number of patients diagnosed and treated for CHS in San Diego County hospital emergencies has risen from 86 to 232. Diagnosis of CHS has risen from 1108 to 10302 in the last decade says the study. The exact molecular cause why this condition occurs is not known but it is seen that some individuals are more at risk than others.

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