There is a disturbing new illness resulting from heavy, long-term marijuana use that causes nausea and vomiting. Hot showers and baths are the only thing that seems to relieve the symptoms. It is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS.
For more than two years, Lance Crowder was having severe abdominal pain and vomiting, and no local doctor could figure out why. Finally, an emergency room physician in Indianapolis had an idea.
“The first question he asked was if I was taking hot showers to find relief. When he asked me that question, I basically fell into tears because I knew he had an answer,” Crowder said.
Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado co-authored a study showing that since 2009, when medical marijuana became widely available, emergency room visits diagnoses for CHS in two Colorado hospitals nearly doubled. In 2012, the state legalized recreational marijuana.
“It is certainly something that, before legalization, we almost never saw,” Heard said. “Now we are seeing it quite frequently.”
CHS can lead to dehydration and kidney failure, but usually resolves within days of stopping drug use. That’s what happened with Crowder, who has been off all forms of marijuana for seven months.
“Now all kinds of ambition has come back. I desire so much more in life and, at 37 years old, it’s a little late to do it, but better now than never,” he said.
CHS has only been recognized for about the past decade, and nobody knows exactly how many people suffer from it. But as more states move towards the legalization of marijuana, emergency room physicians like Dr. Heard are eager to make sure both doctors and patients have CHS on their radar.