While many medical marijuana patients consume cannabis to aid with their nausea or other stomach woes, there are a growing number of people experiencing the exact opposite effect whenever they spark up. As more potent strains of cannabis are bred and become readily available throughout the world, some folks are noticing that ingesting cannabis causes them to severely vomit. Known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), it would appear to hit those hardest who have smoked a lot (of particularly strong strains) over a prolonged period of time.
It seems contradictory — a plant used to cure stomach-related problems now causing extreme vomiting and nausea. And yet doctors are seeing more and more cases of debilitating CHS than ever before. Many medical professionals point to the increased potency in current cannabis as a potential culprit. In the ’90s, the average strength of cannabis was around 3.4 percent THC. Today, however, the average potency for cannabis is around 19 percent, with some strains containing as much as 30 percent THC (think Chiquita Banana, Godfather OG and Gorilla Glue #4).
While vomiting and nausea are the main symptoms of CHS, folks can also suffer from abdominal discomfort or cramping, diarrhea, bloating, excessive sweating and weight loss. If these symptoms continue for a prolonged period of time, there can be concerns for dehydration and possible acute kidney damage, even failure.
Most cases will resolve themselves in a couple of days, though it can take up to a few months for some unlucky people to no longer suffer the symptoms. The only way to cure CHS is to stop consuming cannabis, though many patients can find immediate relief by taking a hot bath or shower. For some, a long period of abstaining from weed may be enough to reset their systems and avoid incidences of CHS in the future, but for most, 100-percent zero cannabis is the only way to avoid repeat instances of vomiting and nausea.
The first case of CHS was reported in a medical journal in 2004, and the syndrome is still so new that it’s unclear how many cases of it have been present in the US. While most cases present in patients who have been regular, daily cannabis smokers for at least a year, there have been a few patients who only use cannabis a few times a week yet still report suffering uncomfortable symptoms related to CHS. And, anecdotally at least, it seems to present more often in women than in men. It’s thought that perhaps CHS has more to do with a slower cannabinoid metabolism, which can lead to a toxic buildup, causing severe vomiting and other symptoms related to the syndrome.
So, if you notice any CHS-related symptoms coming on in relation to smoking cannabis, please see a doctor — and go easy on your smoke.