Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Can You Smoke Yourself Sick?

Since the passage of I-502, the cannabis scene in Washington has changed significantly. Legalization at a state level has created an environment where much needed information about cannabis can come to light. We are constantly learning about new aspects of the plant, such as terpenes and its various medicinal properties. We have been able to start researching and substantiating claims about the plant’s healing abilities that before were purely anecdotal. Negative aspects of the plant are also beginning to surface.

Cases of Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) are becoming more prevalent, giving rise to our need to understand the condition. I spoke with a CHS sufferer a few years ago, and became further interested in the syndrome when a good friend, Mark Collins, told me he had been diagnosed. Mark, owner of Wicked Weed in Spokane, started using cannabis to successfully treat his PTSD over nine years ago, inspiring him to move to Washington and start his grow. The last few times I had seen Mark, he had lost weight and wasn’t looking like his normal, spry self. I asked him what was going on, and he told me he had recently been diagnosed with CHS.

A Case of CHS

Mark went from 210 pounds to 165 pounds in under six months. He was vomiting every morning, feeling nauseous all day and ate very little. His doctor originally thought it was stress from working on the expansion of his business. He went through a panel of tests and began treatment for acid reflux and ulcers, none of which helped. Mark was getting worse. He was feeling defeated and baffled until he came across a Reddit post that described his symptoms to a T—descriptions of CHS.

A quick Google search will tell you that CHS “is characterized by chronic, heavy use of cannabis, recurrent episodes of severe nausea and intractable vomiting and abdominal pain. Temporary relief of symptoms is achieved by taking a hot bath or shower, and resolution of the problem when cannabis use is stopped.” And sure enough after 10 days without cannabis, Mark was able to gain back 10 pounds, his vomiting ceased and his once insatiable appetite returned. As Mark put it: “The cause was undeniable—cannabis, or more importantly, the overconsumption of cannabis.”

Mark has started using cannabis again, but his consumption has decreased significantly. He isn’t dabbing or using hash oil, and isn’t smoking during the day. He mainly uses CBD products and has gained back almost all of the weight he lost. “I will never not use cannabis,” Mark says. “I owe my life to this plant, but I am now more informed on the harms that overconsumption, even if it’s medical, may cause.” He is still an advocate for the plant and its medical uses, but realizes there are still a lot of unknowns about this sacred plant.

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