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Study: Common Marijuana Users — Including Teens — Are Affected by ‘Uncontrollable Vomiting’

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Emergency departments in the United States are seeing a noticeable influx of regular marijuana users — including teens — being hospitalized for uncontrollable vomiting and intestinal distress, a new study reveals.

The condition, known as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, has been particularly evident in the 17 states where marijuana has been legalized, according to CNN.

“They writhe, hold their stomachs, and complain of severe abdominal pain and nausea,” said Dr. Sam Wang, a pediatrics specialist and toxicologist who treats teens with the condition at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

“They just puke and puke because of what they have in their stomach, that can go on for hours.”

“They often say they took a scalding hot shower before coming to the emergency room, but it didn’t help. That’s when we know we may have a case of cannabis hyperemesis syndrome or CHS,” Wang added.

The condition, known as cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, has been especially evident in the 17 states where marijuana has been legalized, according to CNN.

Pictured: Map of Marijuana Legality by State

Pictured: Map of Marijuana Legality by State

Study: Increase in uncontrollable vomiting associated with marijuana use

Cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) was first identified by a group of Australian researchers in 2004 when they studied 19 chronic marijuana users who complained of repeated cases of gagging and abdominal pain.

More than half of the study group said they felt relief from hot showers or baths.

“Patients often say, ‘You know, it’s always in the evening when I get this nausea, vomiting,’ Wang said.

“So they tell me, ‘I’m going to take a hot shower, and it gets better, then it happens again the next night.’

“It’s pretty universal for these patients to say they need a very, very warm shower or a very hot bath to improve their symptoms,” he said.

Researchers believe that since cannabis accesses the body’s pain receptors, exposure of the body to extreme heat can distract it and interrupt the pain cycle, according to CNN.

Treatment for CHS usually consists of nausea medication, along with liquid IVs to help treat dehydration from vomiting.

However, patients admitted for CHS must also undergo a battery of tests to better identify the diagnosis, including CT scans, endoscopy, blood and urine tests, and gastric emptying tests, among others.

The number of CHS cases has skyrocketed over the years, with more than 800,000 cases of vomiting reported in Colorado between 2013 and 2018 alone, representing a 29 percent increase since marijuana was legalized in the state in 2012, according to the analysis of Wang, which was published Friday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.

And the study found that teens and young adults are particularly hard hit by the condition, with more than a third of vomiting cases occurring in people 25 and younger.

“This is not a rare problem,” Wang said.

“When a teenager comes in with cyclical stomach pains and vomiting, my colleagues know to ask about cannabis use. It is quite common to see, diagnose and treat this.”

Treatment for CHS usually consists of nausea medication, along with liquid IVs to help treat dehydration from vomiting.

However, patients admitted for CHS must also undergo a battery of tests to better identify the diagnosis, including CT scans, endoscopy, blood and urine tests, and gastric emptying tests, among others.

dr. Wang says some of the younger CHS patients may be readmitted multiple times because of the condition, forcing them to undergo such tests, which are often expensive and unpleasant.

“For some of our kids, this is their fifth ER visit in the past two months, with symptoms they can’t control,” Wang said.

Medical professionals say patients who wait too long to be treated for the condition may be putting their lives at risk.

“Whether it’s cannabis hyperemesis syndrome or another virus that makes you vomit a lot, if you let it go on for too long, you can get electrolyte disturbances, go into shock and organ failure. CHS is no different,” Wang said.

As more states pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, the issue of CHS could become even more common, warns Dr. Cheek.

A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of American adults believe marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use.

A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of American adults believe marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use.

In the US, 17 states (and the District of Columbia) have legalized adult recreational marijuana.

Meanwhile, three dozen states and several U.S. territories also have medical marijuana laws on the books.

A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of American adults believe marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use.

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