According to the outlet, emergency room physicians in Australia began studying the condition in 2004, when other similar cases cropped up in the area that year. All the people with the syndrome shared that they suddenly became ill after smoking marijuana for years. The physicians named it “cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome,” or CHS. Symptoms that they’d seen included sudden and severe episodes of nausea and vomiting. At that point, extremely hot baths were the only remedy.
While the condition was thought to be rare, now ER physicians across Europe and the U.S. are seeing the same thing.
On Monday, a study was released by a team of clinicians in Colorado, a state where marijuana was legalized medically in 2009 and recreationally in 2014. The study describes over 2,500 marijuana-related ER visits to a large public hospital in the state from 2012 to 2016. The team found that nausea and vomiting are some of the main symptoms, appearing before psychiatric problems like intoxication and paranoia occur. In terms of stomach issues, CHS was the most widely reported problem and the main reason people were booked at the hospital.
Because marijuana was only recently largely legalized, few studies have examined the drug’s effects, both positive and negative. While researchers linked CHS to repeated marijuana use, and though they named the syndrome, no one yet knows what causes it or how to stop it.
Other studies have also been done. In 2017, a team of German ER doctors characterized CHS as a “barely known” condition, which leads to nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. The only cure they found was to quit smoking weed. In 2018, New York clinicians surveyed thousands of patients at a huge urban public hospital and found that as many as three million Americans could suffer from something like CHS. Their cure was also the same, to quit marijuana.
The physicians behind the Australian study wrote in 2004 that people who “rechallenged themselves by resuming marijuana” had “relapsed within months.” The lead author of the New York CHS paper, Joseph Habboushe—who is also an associate professor at NYU—has launched a study to find new remedies for symptoms of CHS.