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Why Am I Vomiting So Much? Do I Have CHS?

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

If you find yourself throwing up constantly, for no apparent reason, your doctor might ask whether you smoke marijuana. And how often.

Don’t get annoyed at the doctor’s seeming nosiness. There’s actually a link between heavy marijuana use and vomiting.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome

Increasing case reports have shown that people who use marijuana often, and heavily, are at risk for developing what doctors call Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, or CHS. Though it has no official diagnosis code, individuals with CHS seem to have repeated bouts of vomiting, intense nausea and stomachaches. The condition isn’t only uncomfortable; it’s dangerous. Due to the inability to keep food down, CHS can cause dehydration, malnutrition, and severe weight loss. In fact, one teen actually died from CHS.

Seventeen-year-old Brian Smith from Indiana had been smoking marijuana for years without any issues. One day, though, the vomiting started. And never stopped. After several ER visits, doctors told Smith he had CHS. They told him to quit marijuana. Smith was dubious. Apparently he didn’t stop smoking; his mother found a bag of cannabis edibles in his backpack several months later. By that time, he had been losing lots of weight. He died several weeks later. The coroner’s report: “Dehydration due to CHS.”

How to Get Rid of CHS

So, how do you treat CHS? The only real cure is to stop using cannabis. If you’re in the throes of nausea at the moment, though, try taking a hot shower. Many teens find a scalding shower eases their symptoms—for a while. After another episode of marijuana use, however, the vomiting is back in full force. So hot showers are just temporary bandaids. The only way to get rid of this condition once and for all is to quit marijuana use completely.

Interestingly enough, many people (such as cancer patients) use cannabis to actually help with nausea. Which is why some people are dubious about CHS and its source. Many longtime marijuana users find this syndrome paradoxical and don’t accept the fact that they’re throwing up because of their substance use. But apparently, cannabis can have an opposite effect on people who are heavy users.

Advice for Teen Marijuana Users

So, if you’ve been using marijuana for a while, consider whether it’s time to stop. Marijuana can have a host of other effects on your body besides CHS: It can harm your attention, memory, and learning. Even short-term usage causes these negative effects. And today’s strains of marijuana are exponentially more potent than they once were years ago, which means there’s more THC in every ounce of the substance than previously. If you use marijuana regularly, you’re also more likely to engage in risky behavior and get into trouble with the law.

In sum, teens and marijuana just don’t do well together.

Note: The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, and disclose accurate information about your marijuana usage if you suspect you have CHS.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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