Marijuana has long been lauded as a wonder drug for treating nausea and vomiting. Now, health experts say your pot may be making you sick.
Emergency medicine physicians at UC Davis Medical Center said they’ve seen young, often college-age patients come in once or twice a day vomiting multiple times an hour and screaming uncontrollably.
“They keep moaning, shouting and yelling after they vomit. It’s very dramatic. It sounds like someone is dying,” said Dr. John Richards, an emergency medicine physician and professor at UC Davis.
Doctors have seen these symptoms in emergency rooms for years without fully understanding what was happening, he said. Ultrasounds and CT scans would be ordered, and opioids and anti-nausea medication prescribed, but to no avail. It wasn’t until a 2004 study, when Australian doctors identified a connection between patients’ marijuana use and their recurring episodes of vomiting and abdominal pain that the diagnosis was clinched.
Blazing up every day with potent strains of marijuana was eliciting the symptoms, according to the study.
THC and other cannabinoid concentrations are also higher in medical marijuana strains, which may be contributing to more cases of CHS.
“Imagine you have a beer every day and then one day I give you 100 proof alcohol and I say, ‘Go at it,’ ” said Dr. Jeff LaPoint, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician in San Diego. “That’s similar to the effect potent marijuana strains have.”
The condition is known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or more simply CHS, and doctors believe it’s caused when cannabinoids in marijuana — a chemical that bonds to receptors in the central nervous system — bombard neurotransmitters, causing an imbalance in the body’s regulatory system.
Cannabinoids are naturally present within the body and they interact with a complex system of endocannabinoid receptors.