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Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome: Everything You Need to Know

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS) is a condition caused by prolonged, heavy marijuana use, leading to severe, recurrent vomiting. Treatment involves ceasing marijuana use and potentially requires hospital care for dehydration. CHS has three phases: prodromal, hyperemetic, and recovery.

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Uncontrollable vomiting. Dehydration. Long hospital stays. Recurrent bouts of sickness. All of these words have been used to describe cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). 

If you’ve used marijuana products regularly for years or have a marijuana addiction, you could be at risk for this rare condition. And CHS is so dangerous that it may be potentially fatal.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Quick Answer

After quitting weed, most people start to feel better within 10 days or so, although it may take a few weeks or months to fully recover from CHS.

What Causes CHS?

CHS is caused by chronic, daily marijuana use. Doctors recently discovered cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome and plenty of studies are underway to determine why it happens. A picture is becoming clear, and it could be alarming to anyone with a long history of marijuana use. 

A typical person with CHS has used marijuana for about 19 years. [1] They visited emergency rooms more than seven times before doctors discovered why they started vomiting and couldn’t stop. [1]

A typical person with CHS has used marijuana for about 19 years. But that doesn’t mean people cannot experience it earlier than that. [1]

Doctors may recommend medical marijuana use to help people cope with cancer-related or chronic nausea. Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana, bind to receptors in the intestine, and they seem to ease digestive upset. 

Cannabinoids are stored in fatty cells. Researchers believe that those deep stores of cannabinoids overstimulate your receptors, leading to nausea and vomiting. [2] Again, this is something that doesn’t happen with short-term marijuana use.

In other words, the drug you might use to treat nausea in low doses can have the opposite effect in high doses over time. And unfortunately, since so many people believe that marijuana eases nausea, people with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome might turn to marijuana in a misguided attempt to get relief. This can lead to a long cycle of use and sickness.

3 CHS Phases & Symptoms

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is a chronic, repeating condition. People with it move through three phases over and over, as long as they keep using marijuana. [3]

1. Prodromal Phase

Someone in the prodromal phase will awaken with nausea, and spend all day worrying that they’ll throw up. Their stomach hurts or cramps. They keep eating normally and rarely vomit. But they feel like something will happen soon or that something is off. [3]

During this stage, which can last for months or years, people tend to increase marijuana use because they feel sick. They think the drug will help them feel better, but in reality, they’re making their CHS much worse. [3]

2. Hyperemetic Phase

During the hyperemetic phase, a person experiences overwhelming, intense bouts of nausea. They may vomit up to five times per hour, and nothing in their home medicine cabinet seems to make things better. They can find relief by spending time in a very hot shower, but the vomiting starts again as soon as they step out. [3]

It’s common for people to lose weight during the hyperemetic phase. Nausea suppresses your appetite, and anything you do eat comes right back up again. It is virtually impossible to get anything done during this phase because you feel so sick.

This phase typically lasts for about two days. [3]

3. Recovery Phase

During the recovery phase of CHS, vomiting stops and people start to feel better. They will start eating again and regain the weight they lost. This phase may last anywhere from days to months. [3]

How Serious is CHS?

Severe, overwhelming vomiting is incredibly dangerous. 

People with CHS can develop the following issues:[4]

  • Brain swelling 
  • Heart problems 
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Seizures 

Your body needs fluids to circulate messages, support organ health, and more. Vomiting removes those fluids, dehydrating you, and the hot showers you take compound the damage. People with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome may spend up to six hours every day in a hot shower to stop the vomiting. [5]

Acute dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can cause organ failure and death. You can also sustain life-threatening injuries if you hit your head during a seizure. 

How Is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome Treated?

Chronic and compulsive marijuana use causes cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Stopping cannabis use is an important part of your treatment plan, and your doctor will suggest that you stop using marijuana immediately.

Few prescription medications can ease CHS vomiting.[6] However, doctors may experiment with drug protocols to find a combination that works for you. The goal is to lessen symptoms even if the medications don’t completely eradicate them.

If your vomiting is so severe that you’re dehydrated and harming your throat, your doctor might suggest the following: [7]

  • Fluids: An IV can push liquids into your body while bypassing your digestive system altogether. Getting fluids in this manner can help you to quickly feel much better.
  • Electrolytes: Salts added to your IV fluids can help your body’s electrical system function normally. Again, this can quickly improve how you feel.
  • Nasogastric tubes: A thin tube snakes into your nose and down your throat. Doctors can push liquid nutrition through this tube to help you gain back weight. 

Doctors treat severe cases of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome in hospitals. You’ll stay inside the facility until you stop vomiting and can eat food without a tube. 

Four in five people who have CHS recover when they stop taking marijuana products.[8] If you keep using cannabis, you will continue to have problems with this syndrome for the rest of your life.

If you know marijuana is causing your symptoms but are unable to quit, it’s a sign you need marijuana detox and marijuana addiction treatment. A comprehensive treatment program can help you address the underlying issues that cause your marijuana abuse, help you build coping skills and relapse prevention strategies, and help build a foundation for long-term recovery. You’ll be able to embrace a better future where you are free of the debilitating symptoms of CHS. 

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome FAQs

Does everyone who uses marijuana get CHS?

No, CHS is relatively rare. Daily, long-term users who take in a lot of marijuana have the highest risk of developing CHS. Doctors don’t yet know if casual users can develop problems. 

How long does CHS last?

People with this syndrome will cycle in and out of poor health if they keep using marijuana. Quitting all marijuana use is the best way to stop the problem. 

Can CBD-only products cause CHS?

At least one study suggests that CBD products can cause CHS. But more research is required. [9]

Can I die from CHS?

Yes. Persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, which can be life-threatening.

Should I go to the hospital if I have CHS symptoms?

Yes. Doctors should offer you fluids and gastroprotective drugs to help you feel better. You should also stop taking marijuana right now to prevent further issues. 

Updated November 27, 2023
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