What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Over the years, plenty of studies have been conducted regarding the long-term and excessive use of cannabis. One health condition that appears to rise is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, commonly referred to as CHS. But what exactly is it, and how dangerous is the condition?

In this article, you’ll find everything there is to know about and explain what you can do if you’re worried about yourself or a loved one.


What is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

CHS is a rare but serious condition that is typically experienced by people who have a long and heavy history of using cannabis. It’s characterised by severe and cyclical nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Despite being a fairly recent diagnosis, attention is growing regarding the condition leading to a push for more studies into the potential damaging effects of cannabis use.


Symptoms of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

While every case of CHS will be different and people can be affected differently, both in terms of symptoms and severity, typically, CHS presents as severe sickness and persistent vomiting as well as stomach discomfort.

Most commonly, individuals will experience episodes of symptoms with periods of relief in between. The cyclical nature of these symptoms is what helps to diagnose CHS, and makes it very different from other gastrointestinal conditions. Interestingly, individuals may also find that a hot shower and bath provide relief from symptoms, which is another important and distinctive feature of CHS.


What Causes Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Research into the condition is in the early stages, so it isn’t yet known what the exact cause of CHS is. However, it is typically associated with heavy and long-term use of cannabis. Experts believe that the active compounds in cannabis, known as THC, play a crucial role in triggering the condition. Currently, ongoing research continues better to understand the condition as well as any risk factors.

So far, the following risk factors have been identified:

  • Frequency of cannabis use – Long-term and heavy use of the drug is a key risk factor for CHS. The more frequent and prolonged the use, the higher the likelihood of someone experiencing CHS symptoms.
  • THC concentrations – It’s believed that cannabis products with high levels of THC, which is the psychoactive component of the drug, have a higher risk of CHS.
  • Individual predisposition – Genetic and individual differences in the way that the body metabolises cannabis could make some people more susceptible to CHS.
  • Age of use – Research shows that those who started using cannabis in their early adulthood years or as a young teenager are more likely to suffer from CHS.
  • Previous CHS episodes – Those who have suffered from CHS before are more likely to suffer from it again if they continue to use cannabis.


Long-Term Effects of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Again, while research into the condition is only just beginning, experts are already warning of the long-term effects of CHS. This is because CHS is characterised by repeated episodes of vomiting, which can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the stomach lining, as well as teeth rot and weight loss. Prolonged vomiting can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, which can have a severe impact on overall health and well-being.

The severe cyclical symptoms are also likely to impact a person’s quality of life, affecting work, finances, relationships and, again, overall well-being. It’s not uncommon for someone suffering from CHS to also experience mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression and fear because of recurring symptoms.


Diagnosing and Treating Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Diagnosing CHS requires medical intervention. Because CHS is so similar to other conditions, with similar symptoms, a trained medical professional must be able to exclude other health concerns. In addition to this, specific tests may be performed and criteria met to confirm that someone has CHS. When someone has been diagnosed with CHS, treatment often includes a multifaceted approach involving the stopping of cannabis use. This can be challenging for people who have used cannabis for a long time, which is why rehab is often a necessary step.

As mentioned, CHS is similar to other conditions, which can, unfortunately, lead to delayed or incorrect treatment. Being aware of these conditions, as well as their symptoms, can help to ensure that someone gets the proper diagnosis and care. One of the most common misdiagnoses is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS) which, like CHS, is characterised by repeat episodes of sickness. Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or gastritis also share some of the symptoms of CHS, which can lead to misdiagnosis. Occasionally, stress and anxiety can also be mistakenly identified as the primary cause of CHS symptoms.


Strategies for Preventing CHS

Whether you have been diagnosed with CHS and want to manage your symptoms or perhaps want to be proactive and prevent cannabis-induced nausea and vomiting, the below tips can help you to be more mindful of your cannabis use.

  • Abstinence – The best way to avoid cannabis side effects and CHS is to use cannabis in moderation or even abstain from it if you are experiencing symptoms or have a history of the condition.
  • Careful choices – If you do want to continue using cannabis, then picking products with a lower THC level will likely reduce the risk of you experiencing CHS.
  • Awareness – Being aware of the symptoms, as well as your personal tolerance to cannabis, can help you manage any adverse reactions.
  • Regular checkups – To best monitor your health, it’s important to speak to medical professionals, especially if you have experience with CHS.


Find Support Today

One of the most important things to remember is that cannabis can affect people differently, and CHS can also vary in severity. If you or someone you know is experiencing CHS symptoms or you’re concerned about a cannabis addiction, seeking professional support is key.

Not only can diagnosis and treatment be tailored to individual cases, but individuals can be supported to reduce their cannabis use and get their lives back on track. Don’t forget there are plenty of local support groups in the community for people struggling with cannabis use, as well as groups for those who suffer from CHS. One thing’s for sure, taking the first step today and getting in touch is one of the best things you can do.